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John Polanyi CI Teacher National Finalist in Science Challenge

John Polanyi CI Teacher National Finalist in Science Challenge

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

John Polanyi Collegiate Institute science teacher Nicole Anthony was recently honoured as just one of four national finalists—and the only Canadianin the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) Science Lab Challenge

With about 55,000 members involved in science education, NSTA is a leading organization promoting excellence in science teaching and learning. Its annual competition is open to intermediate and high school teachers who use innovative approaches to reach students and offers a chance to win a school science lab makeover. “We’re proud to support and recognize…educators who work tirelessly every day to engage and motivate their students,” said NSTA executive director Dr. David Evans. 

Anthony was chosen from about 400 applicants and stood out as having “a good model with biotechnology and STEM programs” that would benefit from a lab upgrade. She found the competition online while searching for ways to fund her biotechnology program. “I applied last year and made it to the district pool level, so I reapplied again with updates to my application and won,” she said. 

As a winner, Anthony nets $6,000 USD for her school to use for a lab makeover plus another $300 to spend with NSTA in science classroom resources. She also received an all-expenses paid trip to LA to attend the NSTA National Conference where she received her award (and where, as a life-long science aficionado, she was especially excited to see Bill Nye, the Science Guy speak live). 

The upgrade and award is welcome news at JPCI, which has grown from some 300 students in 2011 to more than 900 today, and is continuing to expand. “We’re so proud of Nicole,” said Principal Aiman Flahat. “Her dedication and talent as an educator is such a boon to our students, and the lab upgrade will help her to help them get to another level altogether.”

Last year, Anthony purchased basic lab equipment to start a biotechnology course as part of the school’s renowned Science, Math, Robotics (SMR) program, and had been using an old cosmetology room to deliver lessons. The new course offers students a unique hands-on lab experience using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) equipment. “PCR allows researchers to amplify millions of copies of DNA for visualization and analysis,” said Anthony. “With this technology, students are learning how to apply DNA science in fields such as forensics, public health, environmental science, conservation, and disease diagnosis.”

Anthony’s wish list for improving lab spaces at the 60 year old school includes mobile lab work benches, a spectrophotometer, microbiology safety equipment and lab tools, a fume hood, science lab sinks, and a MinION mobile nucleic acid sequencer. “As a science teacher, I believe that my role is to harness and nurture, and even revitalize, students’ natural sense of curiosity about the world,” she said. “A lab upgrade would allow me to create a proper science lab where students can learn and conduct biotechnology the way real scientists do in the lab.”

It’s that kind of approach that engages her students and has them excited about the growth potential that the award affords the course and the subsequent impact on their own learning. “My aim is to pursue a career in medical fields,” said David. “Biotechnology branches off into fundamental sciences like bio, chem, and physics [and] the grant… gives us access to lab equipment that no other school has access to.”

Melalee is another student in the Biotechnology course who sees her own future in this field. “Learning about the various sectors of biotechnology made me realize that we are surrounded by products of biotechnology. I’m specifically interested in products like recombinant insulin since it helps the lives of diabetics.”

With brand new industry-standard equipment on the horizon and led by a dynamic teacher like Nicole Anthony, Bill Nye might say that at JPCI “science rules!”

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