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My Experience at STAO 2010

(Science Teachers Association of Ontario Annual Conference)

This post summarizes my experiences on the third day of this conference.

My first session was another Smarter Science demonstration of senior chemistry. This session was hosted by  Katy Farrow and was entitled “Introduction to the Smarter Science Inquiry Framework – Grades 11-12 Chemistry“.  Its description was “Learn how chemistry teachers in the TVDSB are addressing the scientific inquiry and investigation expectations in the revised SCH3U, SCH4C, and SCH4U courses. Course-specific experiences and strategies will be shared.”  As before, I left the session still scratching my head a little bit about what the framework of “Smarter Science” is supposed to be and how to use it to make labs more inquiry based and student driven.  However, this session was better than the one I had attended yesterday in that some more ‘see what it looks like’ activities were done to help make this process a little more understandable.  I think I’m going to need some serious time to look more carefully into the information on the website and contact some teachers that are more comfortable with this framework to make more sense of it and how I may apply it to the courses that I teach.

One extra piece of information I did received from the presenter is that next year, 2011, is the international year of chemistry.  A quick look at the website reveals there are a lot of resources available.  I think I’ve got part of my summer reading time already ‘booked’!

The second session I attended was for pure enjoyment.  It was a lecture style talk by Jay Ingram, host of the Canadian science  show Daily Planet. Its description was “Daily Planet has introduced us to innovative people, technologies and inventions, the extravagance of nature and the incomprehensibility of the universe. Jay Ingram seamlessly connects the dots among diverse ideas and structures.”

He started his lecture with a description of what drives his show.  Since it is owned by CTV, their main purpose is to produce shows that make money. The fact that a show that includes science as part of its content remains on the air after 15 seasons is a real accomplishment.  Jay was careful to point out that his show is not purely science content, as such a show would not survive on a private broadcaster’s schedule.  That being said, there is science embedded in each and every story on the show.  He was a dynamic speaker, fun to listen to and made this particular hour the fastest of my day.

The last session I attended was hosted by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics called “Perimeter Explorations Resource – The Mystery of Dark Matter” .  Its description was “Over the last few decades, physicists have come to realize that about 90% of the mass of every galaxy in the universe seems to be made of a mysterious unseen substance called dark matter. This presentation provides an overview of the Perimeter Institute’s educational resource on Dark Matter for grade 12. Presented with Dave Fish who partnered in the development of this session.”

Although I teach chemistry, topics related to Astronomy (Dark Matter is an Astronomy topic) and Quantum Mechanics have always interested me, the former as something of a pastime, the later because of its pure craziness.  Also I thought to be able to bring some resources back for the physics teachers in our department.

The presentation was very well done.  They included a free resource package for teachers that includes a 25 minute video that is chunked into short 3-5 minute chapters.  Also included is a teacher’s manual that includes about 5 activities that can be done for students.  In particular, they concentrate on a topic in grade 12 physics called uniform circular motion with a very easy and well thought-out hands-on activity for the students.  The manual also has background information for teachers that may not know that much about the underlying physics of the activities (like me!), as well as sample answers to the students worksheets that are also included in the package.  I found that this hour went by very quickly as the presentation was very interesting, engaging and easy to follow.

I already know that the physics teachers in our department will like this resource package.

At those were my experiences at STAO2010.  All in all, a VERY worthwhile experience for me.


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