"We give kids a chance to experience what science is and what scientists do."
There’s serious science happening in Dr. Mickie Noble’s laboratory. About twenty kindergartners are hard at work; the small scientists create solutions with the vortex mixer, observe pond water with the microscope and carefully pour colourful liquids from test tubes to beakers.
“This is our lucky day!” pipes up one voice from the back of the room.
Noble stands in the middle of the action, clad in a tie-dyed lab coat and a delighted expression. This is the eighteenth year Noble, an assistant professor in School of Environment and Sustainability, has opened her lab to elementary students from greater Victoria to show them the wonders of hands-on science.
“We give kids a chance to experience what science is and what scientists do,” says Noble. “It’s about helping kids look at science and think, ‘You know what? I could do that. That would be really cool to do when I grow up.’”
The laboratory visit program welcomes eight classes a year to the lab, where kids from kindergarten to grade five do various experiments, from culturing the germs on their own hands to blowing up gummy bears.
“It’s important for kids to see themselves in that role, because by the time they get to high school and are choosing electives, if they’ve never thought science was cool, they will never take a science elective,” Noble says.
During this particular lab visit, the program’s youngest scientists are standing on sturdy white buckets to reach the lab bench and the day’s experiments.
“Ew, that smells gross!” one lab-coated kid announces as she touches the media on a petri dish. Her lab partner takes a whiff and agrees gleefully.
Teacher Jeni-Lynn Blackie moves between the students, snapping pictures and asking questions about their experiments.
“I waited four years for this opportunity to bring my kindergartners to the Royal Roads lab,” Blackie says. “I can’t bring all this to my classroom, but they can experience it here.”
The program is free to schools and is well-regarded by the Royal Roads community. Funding came from various areas of the university over the years but was never guaranteed.
The lab visits will now continue well into the future thanks to the Noble School Lab Visit Fund. Faculty and staff from the School of Environment and Sustainability created the new fund and are donating via payroll deductions.
“It is very gratifying my colleagues feel the program has real value to them,” Noble says. “It’s one thing to think your program has value; it’s another thing entirely for the people you work with to not only be generous enough to support us with their time, but also with their funds.”
The program has benefit to the school beyond outreach, Noble says, as it offers an important experience to the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science students who volunteer on class visit days.
“It’s really great for them to have a day when they have all the answers and the kids think they are marvelous,” Noble says. “It gives them an opportunity to see what it’s like working with kids. And over the years, there are about 20 Bachelor of Science students who have gone on to teach school.”
Noble says her ultimate goal of creating future scientists seems to be working. Some of her first lab visitors are now graduating high school, and many of them took science classes throughout high school.
“We are corrupting them one class at a time,” she says with a chuckle.
Members of the Royal Roads community and other supporters can also contribute to the Noble Fund by contacting Advancement.