Sparking Science Though Mentorship:
the next generation of female leaders
Scroll to the the bottom to take a look behind the scenes!
Figure 1: Group photo of all the participants, volunteers, and mentors
This past October EcoSpark was able to hold it’s 3rd annual Sparking Science Through Mentorship conference at the UTSC campus, in a collaboration with Dunbarton High School, the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), and the Durham District School Board. The event showcases career women, with a social purpose. Drawing from various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, ages, and backgrounds, these women act as mentors to young female/ female-identifying girls entering Grade 9, from all over the Durham region. The goal is to increase STEM literacy and demonstrate that careers in STEM are fun, fulfilling, and result in many different pathways and experiences!
As one of EcoSpark’s relatively new staff members, I was extremely excited to be one of the personnel in charge of organising and running such a prestigious event. I had heard from my colleagues about how amazing the previous Sparking Science Through Mentorship events were, but I was much more excited after reading the interviews from 2018’s student volunteers, Aaliyah Jaleel and Chelseyah Emanuel, as well as returning mentor, Tooba Shakeel.
It was quite daunting to think about the number of young minds we would be engaging and (hopefully) inspiring to take on STEM fields in the future.Things kicked off to a rather slippery start (it was raining cats and dogs!) but thanks to the support of David Gordon from Dunbarton High School, and EcoSpark’s Paul Mero and Carina Nunes, things got much better as the event ‘sparked’ off.
The most defining highlights of the event were the presentations by our Keynote speaker, Dr. Eliana Gonzales-Vigil, and our closing speaker, Dr. Maithe Arruda Carvalho. I found that both speakers resonated very well with the students; while Dr. Maithe was candid and to the point about her journey to her current job position, Dr. Eliana took a more whimsical approach, laying out her complete journey into the sciences right from a young age. In addition to this, I particularly appreciated Dr. Eliana frankly discussing her struggles with mental health, and how she chose to tackle it head on.
Figure 3: Keynote speaker Dr. Eliana Gonzales-Vigil Figure 4: Closing speaker Dr. Maithe Arruda Carvlho
Another highlight for me from the Sparking Science event was going through all the evaluations from the students, the volunteers, and even the mentors. Without trying to toot my own horn, it was uplifting to see that a lot of the feedback was extremely positive! A few participants even expressed an interest in volunteering for Sparking Science in 2020!
Is there anything else to share for future participants about Sparking Science?
Don’t hear it from me, hear it first hand from the participants, volunteers, and mentors themselves!
Participants and Student Volunteers:
“It’s an incredible experience and I hope Sparking Science can continue for years to come”
I would attend Sparking Science again: “because it gives me a sense of happiness to see people talk about their passion. It made me motivated to look into colleges.”
“I would 100% come back to meet more women and hear their stories...I think it was a good experience that more people should experience.”
“My favourite part of Sparking Science was meeting all the different female mentors and seeing/understanding how they combined two of their interests (eg. Law and environmental sciences). I also enjoyed walking around U of T and learning where all the rooms and buildings are located.”
“This was a great opportunity for not only grade 9 students but the mentors themselves. [The] inspirational stories and knowledge of different pathways leading to new areas of science is a great way to learn and appreciate the role of women power in science. Usually, students are only aware of a few scientific disciplines but inviting mentors from various scientific streams is a very effective way to introduce apparently hidden [career paths in] science.”
"Sparking science stands for two things I am very passionate about - Mentorship and Women power. Having faced many struggles due to not having good mentors, I loved the part where we get to teach girls through our own mistakes so they do not have to repeat it.”
“It was great to open up the student's minds to the concept of an environmental lawyer - most hadn't heard of it as a possible career path. I think the keynote and the small group mentorship sessions allowed the students to be inspired and to ask their questions in a safe environment.”
For more behind-the-scenes action of the 2019 Sparking Science Through Mentorship event, click below to enlarge and view!
Infographic layout: School vector created by macrovector_official. Retrieved from : www.freepik.com
With a passion for conservation and wildlife at an early age, Sara pursued a BSc. (Honors) in Wildlife Biology and an advanced diploma in Ecosystem Management Technology. She also has an intense passion to travel, experience new cultures, and learn many languages. In her fight to protect the environment and develop a sustainable future, Sara believes it is vital to engage communities with the natural world around them. Through the Changing Currents program, she is excited to exercise her certification in the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), while captivating the youth about the importance of some of nature’s aquatic creepy crawlies.