Our Stories: Giving inner-city children a voice through science discovery

Let’s Talk Science can be found at work through diverse communities across Canada, offering rich rewards for both the volunteers who lead events and activities and the children and youth they interact and engage with.

Inner City ClassroomA relationship that developed over five years ago between Let’s Talk Science and a local inner city school in Winnipeg moved Outreach volunteer Vesna Milosevic-Zdjelar to tears after each class visit.

A faculty advisor to the Let’s Talk Science Outreach program at the University of Winnipeg, Vesna is also an Outreach volunteer at the site. Among her many class visits, she counts her work with one inner-city school as one of the most satisfying and moving of her experiences as an educator.

Entrenched in an inner-city neighbourhood, the school has long been a landing site for new immigrants. The classrooms contain not only children new to Canada, but also many First Nations students and children from disadvantaged homes. The students that Vesna interacts with live in extreme poverty and their families struggle every day.

Despite their low English language skills and their incredibly challenging environments, Vesna’s classroom visits and science activities always elicit excitement and insightful questions. During her time with the students, one was inspired enough to proclaim they wanted to become a famous astrophysicist, while others began dreaming of futures as astronauts.

After her first visit to the school’s Grade 6 class, the teacher sent Vesna a letter of thanks containing comments from the students, who were clearly affected by her presentation. “I’m looking forward to seeing you again and the field trip and thank you for the astronomical visit. I’d like to learn more and exceed my expectations and go above the call of duty on learning astrophysics,” announced one student.

Another message read, “Thanks for sharing great stuff with us. This is something I don’t want to forget. I never knew my class knows some things that your students don’t. I want to know when you can come back. Thanks for letting us learn some things about space. I didn’t think it was boring at all. See you next time!”

“These are the kids you could never expect to know about those possibilities when you consider the circumstances they live in,” Vesna explained. “I showed them meteorites, the real collection, and I saw many of them hugging the rocks as if they were touching the universe.” It was a reaction that spoke volumes as to how much her volunteerism affected the students.

Through science, Vesna has been able to bring out their unique and beautiful voices – and has allowed them to dream about their future. She is a shining example of the impact our volunteering professionals have by providing access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences and thereby inspiring Canada’s future generation.

In the meantime, Vesna continues with her Let’s Talk Science Outreach visits to the school and is both moved and motivated by the response. “They keep asking questions and I don’t want to leave any unanswered!”