Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Coming on thirty years of questions and experiments, Patty Rooks has a hard time picking any specific highs in her time inspiring the scientists of tomorrow.
Rooks is a senior scientific consultant at Praxis Science Outreach Community, and says that she finds a highlight in every day of her work.
“I have the fortunate ability to go to classes when we’re allowed,” said Rooks, “Or even in the public to see students just engaging in science, and it just really brings, you know, a smile to my face, for them to see when that light bulb goes off just to see their faces light up, or at the end, when they want to give you a high five and say that was the best day of their life. Like those are just absolute highlights. And the reason why I get up in the morning and love to go to my job.”
Rooks said that while many children feel they may not be good at science, she believes that it’s just a matter of finding a field that catches their interest.
“Science is part of our everyday life. If you woke up in the morning, you’re doing science, because you were breathing, and your body was functioning, and that’s biology,” said Rooks.
Due to the pandemic, the decision was made early this year to make the Kiwanis Southeast Alberta Regional Science Fair fully online. While Rooks likes online, she notes she will miss the enthusiasm of a room full of students that are proud of their work to answer burning questions about the world around them.
To help spark enthusiasm for the fair over the 25,000 square kilometres that Praxis serves, they’ve been running their February Science Challenge, which includes challenges like finding a business that uses science in their everyday lives, researching canadian scientists, and doing small experiments of their own.
“The most exciting part of all is that we had some donors, and each week we’re giving a grand prize of $100 to the weekly student that wins. If teachers do this as part of their class, and their students submit projects, they will put their name into a draw for a $250 cash prize to be used in a science classroom, because we all know how passionate teachers are and how they are always dipping into their pockets to help out their students. So we thought we could give back a little bit,” said Rooks.
There have been winners from the Regional Far that have moved on to national and even international science fairs, said Rooks. She also recalls successes from Praxis’ other programs, such as doctors inspired by Operation Minerva, which is a career day for Grade 9 girls to encourage them to pursue STEM fields.
“Programs like this are important for students because quite often they don’t realize sometimes what careers are out there,” said Rooks. “And if you limit your opportunities when you’re in high school and junior high school, because quite often students are choosing their courses now. So you go through high school, and you’re like, oh, I don’t need biology, but then you get to university and you can’t get in because he didn’t have bio 20.”
“We just want to show students keep your options open because you never know where life might lead you,” said Rooks.