Although there was no school for students on 15 February 2019, the classrooms of MGCI were crowded with those eager to learn. Around five hundred math and science teachers from across Toronto attended the Secondary Eureka! STEM 2019 Conference, which ran from around 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Started around ten years ago, the purpose of this conference is for science teachers to network and learn new teaching strategies with a focus on social justice, sustainability, and the environment in STEM subjects.
Eureka! is organized by a small committee from the Leadership and Learning department of the TDSB, which focuses on professional development for teachers. They begin planning the conference as early as September. “Organizing a conference such as Eureka takes a lot of time and preparation, so that on the actual day everything runs smoothly and any unforeseen issues can be dealt with quickly,” said Mr. Lang, one of the conference organizers.
In addition to the teachers who organized the conference, over forty students volunteered their free time to help ensure that it ran smoothly. Stage crew members ran the audiovisual equipment while others assisted with the setting up and cleaning up of the cafeteria, gym, and classrooms used. Volunteers also greeted teachers as they arrived, checked them in, and helped them find locations around the school during the day. Joshua Xiao, one of the student volunteers, said, “It was just great to get to know how they organized the event and get to know some of the teachers. It’s cool to know what goes on outside the classroom and see it from the teacher’s perspective.”
The day began with the attendees gathered in the cafeteria to listen to this year’s keynote speaker, Curtis Carmichael. Following his speech, the attendees were directed to the exhibitors’ hall set up in the gymnasium. Many science-related organizations, such as FIRST Robotics Canada, Ontario Science Center, and Boreal Science set up display tables showcasing educational materials and providing information about different programs and opportunities they offer.
Teachers also chose from a variety of workshops during three 70-minute sessions, one in the morning and two in the afternoon. Science and education professionals led a wide range of sessions covering different strategies for teaching science and math. These presenters demonstrated different activities and technologies that can be used in classrooms. One session allowed attendees to experience the TDSB’s new Digital Star Lab, which is an inflatable planetarium. “I thought it was really cool to be able to be inside and be able to see virtually the entire night sky. We saw close-ups of planets, stars, and galaxies. I think my Grade 9 science students would be really excited to experience this,” said Peter Wiles, a high school science teacher.
Along with a few of her students, Ms. Gunn, who teaches hospitality, prepared lunch for the attendees, presenters, and volunteers. Lunch was served in the cafeteria around 11:30 pm and consisted of samosas, a variety of salads, and baked goods.
The event ended with a raffle draw for the attendees. The prizes were donated by several science companies, many of which had displayed their products in the exhibitors’ hall earlier in the day. Prizes included science equipment, textbooks, and passes to the Ontario Science Center.
The Eureka! Conference was a day where teachers had a chance to be the students. They met with like-minded professionals and learned about new teaching strategies and resources, with the common goal of provided more learning opportunities for students.