January, 2001

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As an Outreach Volunteer
You Can Make a Difference

They weren't billed as Mensa meetings, but I definitely had the feeling that there were a lot of bright (and enthusiastic) young people on hand when the APEGGA Education Foundation and APEGGA held the Excellence in Education events in Calgary and Edmonton in late November.

Excellence Recognized

These gatherings are our Association's opportunity to publicly recognize the accomplishments of undergraduate and graduate students who, in the past year, have received APEGGA scholarships and awards. The awards, administered through The APEGGA Education Foundation, include 12 University Entrance Scholarships; six Education Scholarships (for individual pursuing careers in science or math education), two R.M. Hardy Graduate Scholarships, as well as nine transfer scholarships (for students enrolled in university after initial studies at community colleges).

Another important group on hand were those receiving APEGGA Gold Medals for attaining the highest marks in each of the undergraduate engineering and geoscience programs at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta. As the parent of daughters not that different in age from many of the award recipients, I found it particularly interesting to hear about the winners' hopes and aspirations.

(The Excellence in Education events also honoured elementary, junior high and senior high teachers who received APEGGA Teacher Awards recognizing how they have made a difference in teaching math and science. I might add that our Association is further encouraging teaching excellence by sponsoring for the first time in 2001 the Excellence in Teaching Mathematics/Science Award through the Alberta Excellence in Teaching Foundation. The latter offers a number of province-wide awards and APEGGA is looking forward to being part of this high-profile awards program in the coming year.)

Part of Our Leadership Role

The decision a few years ago to establish the APEGGA Education Foundation means that awards and scholarship are administered by the Foundation. Nevertheless, the awards programs are very much in step with the aim, reiterated in our current business plan for APEGGA to continue: "to provide leadership in advancing science and technology through student outreach programs, scholarships and awards, support of activities in the area of research and development, the APEGGA Education Foundation, and projects which enhance the visibility of APEGGA's commitment to science and technology."

We meet these objectives in a number of ways in addition to the $85,000 in scholarships awarded via the APEGGA Education Foundation.

In fact, I couldn't help wondering during the Excellence in Education events how many of the recipients might have got that first nudge to pursue a career in engineering, geology or geophysics as a result of some APEGGA-supported activity. Perhaps it was through any number of events -- including classroom visits and demonstrations, science and career fairs, Science Olympics, rock and fossils clinics -- conducted by APEGGA Outreach volunteers and staff. Each year, these volunteers have contact with tens of thousands of youngsters. Of course, not all of these young people chose our professions. Still, even those who don't, may gain a better appreciation of what we do.

Victims of Own Success

We have done a good job of selling our professions but perhaps not a sufficiently good job of selling our own members on the importance of our Outreach activities. Or seen positively, we are victims of our own success. When it comes to Outreach volunteers, demand has outstripped supply.

In Calgary and Edmonton, we receive a total of some 600 requests for classroom visits by APEGGA members to speak about their work and to demonstrate scientific principles. In the case of southern Alberta (Red Deer and south), we only are able to meet about 75 per cent of the requests for classroom visits. Our average is only slightly better in Edmonton and in the smaller centres served by APEGGA branches. We have started rolling a snowball downhill but we're having a tough time keeping up.

Our volunteers are not thrown out on their own, there are training sessions and support material available for them. We also employ a partnering system whereby "seasoned" presenters partner up with newcomers to the Outreach program to help them ease into the process of speaking before students. The amount of time available can be tailored to fit your timetable and available time.

The results are tremendous. Students and teachers look forward to APEGGA coming to their schools and participating in APEGGA-sponsored events and competitions. As a result, the Association enjoys the reputation of being one of the most proactive and supportive organizations in the province.

This is a time of giving and of resolutions. You can do both by offering to donate your time as an APEGGA Outreach volunteer. You could be giving a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Finally, I'd like to thank those of you have already given of your time and passion for your professions to spark the interest of young Albertans. You are making a difference!

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