We must close the gap: Every child deserves access to STEM enrichment

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On March 1, Toronto Star reporter Andrea Gordon wrote an article about the fundraising gap that exists in our public school system. The article, based on a recent report released by People for Education, focused on the gap that exists between affluent schools and those in lower-income neighbourhoods with regards to parent and community fundraising. Parent and community fundraising allows schools to provide students with educational enrichment opportunities like field trips, workshops such as Scientists in School, and other extracurricular activities. This gap means that already vulnerable students aren’t receiving the same enrichment opportunities as their more affluent counterparts, putting them at an educational disadvantage.

A core tenet of Scientists in School is to ensure that all children have equitable access to hands-on STEM enrichment opportunities regardless of socio-economic status. When we were founded in 1989, almost all schools booked the same number of workshops, regardless of socio-economic status. However, over the last 10 years, bookings in lower-income schools have been steadily declining. Last year, they booked 31% fewer workshops than schools in more affluent communities. This is something that needs to change. Our vision is for every Canadian child to be actively engaged in the seeing and doing and understanding of science.

This is why we launched our Adopt-a-School program two years ago. The program provides complimentary workshops to every class in a school. Thanks to our committed donors, we engaged 54,000 young scientists last year through complimentary workshops, closing the gap from 31% to 22%.

Although impressive, we can do better. We need to do better.

Here is the letter that we sent to the editor at the Toronto Star:

Re: Fundraising widens gap between have and have-not students, report finds, Gordon, Mar. 1

The recent report on Fundraising in Ontario’s schools by People for Education states what many of us know – the gap between affluent and less-advantaged schools is growing. This disparity is one of the biggest barriers to equity regarding educational “extras”.

This must change. Every child deserves the opportunity to love school and have their passion ignited—all things that will help them dream of the future and reach their full potential.

Thanks to generous donors, our Adopt-a-School program provides ‎complimentary STEM workshops to schools serving low-income communities. Of the 24,000 workshops we delivered in Ontario classrooms last year, 2,000 were donated. We must do better.

We’re committed to closing the gap by 2022. I call on schools, governments, businesses, individuals, and community organizations to work together and ensure all children get a chance to benefit from experiences like Scientists in School. We must do better in achieving educational equity.

Cindy Adams
Executive Director
Scientists in School

To find out more about our Adopt-a-School program, visit http://www.scientistsinschool.ca/get-involved/adopt-a-school/ or call Amy Schindler at 905-837-9626, ext. 237.

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