Learning in Full Circle: Why I’m working with Let’s Talk Science

If you told me five years ago that I would be working for Let’s Talk Science helping educators to enhance their students’ digital literacy skills through coding and computational thinking, I would have been shocked! In 2013, I started my Masters degree in Biogeochemistry with no programming experience, not realizing how much I would depend upon computer science concepts to set up my data collection procedures and troubleshoot when things went wrong.

Research at Mer Bleue bog

As I was studying carbon cycling at the Mer Bleue peatland, I also relied heavily on automation, abstraction and pattern recognition to help me make sense of trends in environmental data. Yet, I struggled to think like a computer scientist and was overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know, seeing every setback as a failure rather than a learning opportunity. I remember thinking to myself, “Why didn’t I learn how to do this during my undergraduate degree?”  It made no sense to me that a skill set so integral to carrying out a scientific project was not a required component in science courses.

It was this experience that inspired me to make a change. I pursued a degree in education, and started my journey as a teacher so that I could enhance STEM education and emphasize 21st century skills that every student will rely on in their future careers. Fast forward to the end of August 2018, and I wasn’t preparing for a new school year or setting up a classroom, but I definitely still had first day jitters. I was in London, ON, attending an intensive boot camp in preparation for my new role as a Professional Learning Associate on the Digital Literacy Program with Let’s Talk Science. I was excited to get started, but I still had many questions. What was this project all about, and how would it impact students in classrooms across Canada?

About midway through this boot camp, I had my big A-ha! moment. We were introduced to the Living Space action project, which explores optimal environmental conditions of a classroom in comparison to Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques’ findings aboard the International Space Station (ISS)

As part of this project, we learned to use a CozIR sensor device to read CO2, temperature and relative humidity by coding a micro:bit and setting up a custom sensor board. This project, which directly connects with Grade 6 and 9 curriculum, uses similar methods and technology as my graduate studies! How incredible it is that students as young as sixth grade will be engaging with such an authentic citizen science project!

Living Space sensor array with micro:bit and CozIR

These are the types of skills and opportunities that I wish I had as a young aspiring scientist, and I couldn’t be more excited to help students and educators access this and other Digital Literacy learning opportunities across Canada. As I become more comfortable with not getting it right the first time, I hope to use computational thinking concepts to spark students’ natural wonder and to help them view learning as a continual process of debugging.

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