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The Importance of Laboratory Science in Schools

For students from kindergarten to high school graduation, hands-on laboratory experience is fundamental to the learning process. The critical thinking and problem-solving skills gained in these experiential learning activities will follow the students long after they've left the classroom, regardless of their career paths. In this month’s blog, we dive into the multiple benefits of laboratory learning in schools. 

1- Seeing is Believing 

Science requires a thorough understanding of matter, life, physical, chemical and biological processes that are not necessarily tangible, or visible to the naked eye. Observing and participating in lab experiments offers a well-rounded comprehension of concepts that can be difficult to grasp, giving access to an otherwise inaccessible knowledge. A well equipped lab with clearly defined learning outcomes increases ease and interest in the learning process for both the teacher and student.

2- Hands on Learning 

 While online learning is becoming more and more prevalent, it is important to note that computer simulated activities cannot replicate the experience of being in a lab. Hands-on science activities done in a properly set up laboratory allow students to safely and directly:

- Develop scientific reasoning abilities

- Investigate chemical properties and reactions 

- Increase understanding of the complexity of empirical work

- Learn how to handle laboratory instruments and apparatus

- Cultivate an interest in science

While virtual learning can reduce costs for schools, and shed accurate information on science subject matter, students are less likely to leave school with an in-depth understanding or appreciation of the sciences without working in a lab first hand. 

3- Advanced learning

Hands-on laboratory experiences for children during their early education are proven to advance the rate at which they absorb information, specifically the rate at which they understand more complex concepts. Taking learning beyond the pages of a textbook creates more focus and engagement between a teacher and student, and will actually improve their science literacy. Students are also far more likely to be engaged when the process is being shown to them live in the laboratory versus explained in the classroom. Seeing an explosion happen will make a bigger impression on students than just hearing about a theoretical one.  

On top of that, the excitement created from experiments will lead children to anticipate future fun in the classroom, improving overall engagement and willingness to learn. By focusing equally on classroom and laboratory teaching, (the show and tell method) students learn faster and retain the information over a longer period of time. 

4- Career prep

For students interested in pursuing  higher education or a career in the science/technology industry, the time spent in the lab is priceless. It not only inspires children to pursue such fields, but  prepares them by developing skills which will be sought after by future employers. Even students who do not anticipate a career in sciences, gain important skills that will serve them well through life. Such as:

- Critical thinking skills 

- Problem solving skills

- Teamwork abilities

- The important of organization, detail and precision

The foundation of a good education involves innovative and practical learning approaches that prepare students for what is ahead. A school that offers a well equipped lab, with hands-on learning and passionate teachers is a school that will take curious children and lead them to be passionate, intelligent and self-sufficient adults. 

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What Are Canadian Scientists Up To?

A Look at Ongoing Research Initiatives

It seems like every day there is a new breakthrough that pushes humankind to the next level. Whether in regard to public health, technology, vaccines or agriculture, Canada's leading scientists and researchers are continuously innovating and improving the quality of life for all. 

Curious as to what scientists are working on these days ? Here are 5 research programs currently underway in Canada. 

1- AI for Precision Discovery of Associations in Biological Systems 

The associations between complex human diseases (phenotypes) and underlying genetic variations, is the question that drives a great deal of research in life sciences. 

The University of Toronto is working on a project that uses AI technologies to aid in identifying genetic phenotype associations as precisely as possible. The reason this is so important is that genotype and phenotype associations can provide new insights into understanding disease mechanisms. With a more comprehensive understanding, comes a more attainable solution.

Scientists hope that once it becomes clear which part of human genetic variations negatively interact to cause disease, CRISPR technology can be used to modify, completely replace, potentially reduce, or irradiate some diseases. 

2- Advanced Materials Research Facility (Clean Energy Hub)

The National Research Council of Canada has opened a facility in Mississauga that will (1) support research in new materials that can be used for clean energy, (2) support companies and governments in coming up with a plan on how to transition these materials into industrial use and (3) be used as a space for companies, government, and universities to collaborate on projects aimed at developing clean technologies and advanced materials. 

This center aims to help Canada advance towards their clean energy agenda, and with a $57 million dollar research program, it is certain to make an impact.

3- Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics Program 

The Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics Program is working towards developing new and improved vaccines that will help fight and prevent bacterial and viral infections, treat cancer and fight against other chronic diseases. The program specifically focuses on developing vaccines that target the needs of adults and the aging population who are suffering from cancer and infections. 

The program has experts who specialize in immunomodulation and bioprocessing allowing the Canadian vaccine industry to make advances in adjuvants, biomarkers, and vaccine production. Such programs show the urgency and dedication to developing vaccines that can help fight against cancers and other serious illnesses, infections and diseases. 

4- Therapeutics Beyond Brain Barrier Program

The Therapeutics Beyond Brain Barriers (TBBB) program is working with Canadian and international partners to overcome the blood brain barrier, which prevents nearly all medicines from entering the brain. The blood-brain barrier has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in finding a cure for brain cancers, Alzheimer's, and other diseases related to the central nervous system. 

Scientists and researchers are working towards a solution which entails sending carrier molecules that are capable of getting past the blood-brain barrier, to transport therapeutics to the central nervous system, which will attack and potentially cure such brain illnesses mentioned above. Once proof of mechanism is achieved the goal will be to commercialize new medicines that treat the central nervous system.

5- Industrial Biotechnology Program 

The Industrial Biotechnology Program is working to overcome the technological hurdles of creating high value chemicals and feedstocks from renewable biomass.Feedstocks are any renewable, biological material that can be used as a fuel, or converted to another energy product. Renewable biomass, such as cornstarch, soybean oil and landfill biogas, are all renewable, sustainable resources for producing biofuel, and there is an abundance of it. 

3 benefits of renewable biofuel: 

  1. It's a widely available, renewable source of energy 

  2. It is less expensive than fossil fuel 

  3. It produces less garbage in landfills 

The biofuel can be used in personal care products, food and nutrition ingredients, household goods, industrial applications, and agricultural products

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