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Sparking Interest in Science

Grade 9 girls participate in Sparking Science through Mentorship Conference

October 24, 2018

By Sarah Racioppa

“I noticed that there were a lot of younger girls with a general interest in science and I thought introducing them to what science-based careers could look like was important,” says David Gordon, Science and Cooperative Education Teacher at Dunbarton High School.

He explains that girls entering Grade 9 are the target audience because it’s important to reach them early on in high school, before they have developed any negative associations or barriers to science that might discourage them from continuing their studies. 

To do this, Gordon teamed up with Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. EcoSpark is an environmental charity that encourages communities to take an active role in sustaining their local environment. Together Gordon and Chau created the Sparking Science Through Mentorship Conference. This is the second year for the conference.

EcoSpark, Dunbarton High School, the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), and the Durham District School Board (DDSB) combined forces to host the conference at U of T Scarborough campus on October 10.

Inspirational mentors

From 8:30 am to 2 pm, Grade 9 girls were mentored by women of different ages, backgrounds, and specific fields of study. “We want to show these girls how valuable it is to have a mentor,” explains Gordon. Among the various mentors were keynote speaker Dr. Christina Guzzo, an Assistant Professor of Virology at U of T Scarborough, and Dr. Rene Harrison, a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at U of T Scarborough. They also had four students who attended last year’s conference volunteering this year.

The organizers chose mentors and speakers who are working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with a social purpose. Gordon says their overall goal is to increase science literacy and demonstrate that a career in science can be fun, and can come in many different forms.

Mentors shared what they do, how they got into their chosen fields, as well as their failures and successes. Afterwards, students participated in an open discussion based on questions they prepared beforehand.

Gordon notes, “The girls said they were very interested in what they took part in. They saw and heard about things they didn’t even know existed.” 

Photo Captions:

Photo 1:   Approximately 120 Grade 9 girls participated in this year’s Sparking Science through Mentorship Conference.

Photo 2:   Mentors told Grade 9 girls about their field of study, their challenges, and their successes.

Photo 3:   Dr. Christina Guzzo begins the day with her keynote speech.


Kimberly Brathwaite

Communications Officer              

Durham District School Board