Given the number of school buses in the parking lot it was a pretty good indicator that there were going to be plenty of students milling around at the 2nd International Festival of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics being held in Saskatoon.
As it turns out, that was an understatement, since the expansive Prairieland Park Trade and Convention Centre in Saskatoon was literally teeming with elementary school children as well as their teachers and the many presenters. During the two-day component devoted to school-aged children of the week-long event, it was estimated there were 7,000 students from grades 3 to 12 attending.
It wasn’t just the sheer number of people attending that made an imprint, but equally the fact that luminaries from around the globe in their respective fields had converged on Saskatoon.
According to committee co-chair Jerome Konecsni, it might seem somewhat surprising that more than 1,200 delegates from 55 countries were here sharing their knowledge in what was quite purposefully billed as a world class, high-profile event for students and members of the international community alike.
Mark Edmonds, the science consultant for Prairie Valley School Division, was integrally involved in staging this massive event as a member of the local organizing committee.
While readily admitting his bias in the science stream, he said the event wasn’t just re-affirming and energizing, but he’s hopeful it also helped serve as a catalyst for his own daughter in Grade 10 for whom she said the exposure to the potential future careers is invaluable.
“This is like a dream for me in terms of the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met, and it makes you realize more than ever that we are really a part of a global community and there’s no looking back. But really this is all about the kids and what we can do to be inclusive and engaging in terms of helping them think about their future and being able to question and not to be afraid of failure because what they see at this event can be integral to their future.”
One of the most ardent proponents of what the sciences, in particular, can offer students is Director of Education, Gwen Keith, for Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division.
“My hope as an educator is if we can get to where we get the focus on 21st century learning more incorporated into the Education Sector Strategic Plan because then it will have teeth,” she said, while insisting that “we are not preparing kids for the 21st century and so our kids are being left behind.”