Let's Talk Science (LTS) is an award winning, national program that engages youth in science. The program is run by a small staff and a ton of volunteers (over 2000 to date) and they have partnership programs in most universities across Canada.
Volunteers in the partnership program engage youth, from small kids to high school students in science, engineering and technology activities. The university student volunteers team up with local teachers and go into classrooms to do fun activities, usually related to the teacher's science curriculum. It is a ton of fun for the volunteer and the audience. Depending on your time commitment, you may design your own activity or use ready made kits from your local LTS office. In addition you get experience in communicating science to a variety of levels.
There are many levels of participation in this program. Let's Talk Science has a huge network and has forged a great relationship with local schools. The program sends out volunteers to help judge science fairs, set up science challenge days (All Science Challenge) or conduct on campus activities for visiting schools. If you are interested in science writing, Let's Talk Science has a teen science e-magazine called Cram Science.
I am a alumni from the Memorial University of Newfoundland's LTS program and I was heavily involved in the biology section of "Lab Extravaganza". During "Lab Extravaganza" schools would visit various science departments and labs, and do activities related to research of the university. Fellow graduate student Paul Regular (PhD candidate, sea bird ecology) and I loved looking at research projects and designing an activities out of them.
Let's Talk Science, we're really enthusiastic about science. (Paul Regular, PhD Candidate in seabird ecology, Memorial University)
A particular favorite activity of mine (and also one of my submitted portfolio items) was on Whiskered Auklets to demonstrate sensory adaptations. These birds have feathers that stick out on their heads like whiskers and they live in crevices and burrows. They use the "whiskers" to help navigate in the dark crevices. We built model bird heads out of styrofoam balls and attached whipper snipper cable to half of them for "whiskers". A long cardboard box with open ends was used as a burrow. Students had to close their eyes and try to navigate through the burrow without hitting the bird's head against the sides using whiskered and non-whiskered models. Whiskered models were much easier to get through than non-whiskered models. We would discuss their results and talk about other animals with different sensory parts. For those interested in bird ecology, here is the reference:
Seneviratine, S. and Jones, I.L. 2008. Mechanosensory function for facial ornamentation in the whiskered auklet, a crevice-dwelling seabird. Behavioural Ecology. Published online March 7, 2008. doi:10.1093
This is an example of how you can take research and transform it into something youth can understand. At the end of the day, that is what science communication is about, transforming science so that a diversity of people can understand and learn about it.
Let's Talk Science is a top notch program and I encourage anyone in science to participate in their activities. They have many more activities than what I've talked about here, so check out their website. It is great for adding to your resume, building your portfolio and it is just plain rewarding.
To find a LTS office near you, visit their website, http://www.letstalkscience.ca.