June/July 2012

Teaching: the best way to learn

M4S gains momentum through student outreach

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

This year, CIM’s Mining for Society (M4S) organizers went above and beyond to engage youth in the industry by launching a student outreach initiative based out of the University of Alberta. The initiative helped engage students of all ages with the M4S mining education show. “Last year, mining students at the University of Alberta told us they wanted to get more involved to help prepare schoolchildren in the Edmonton region to come to the show,” says Tim Joseph, the program’s facilitator and an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

Organizers instantly recognized the idea’s potential and invited schools in the region to participate. Twenty per cent responded with enthusiasm, and this year, from January to April, Joseph accompanied some 100 University of Alberta students, teamed up in groups of two or three, to local schools where they gave hour-long presentations on M4S’ seven pavilions – Exploration, Mining, Processing, Sustainability, Products & Fabrication, Education, and Health & Safety – at the schools.


Children in Churchill Square at CIM's M4S Show 
© Normand Huberdeau | NH Photographes Ltée

“The students presented to science or social science classes,” says Joseph. “For the grade three and four levels, they focused on geology and rocks, which is what kids in those grades study under the Alberta curriculum. For the grade seven classes, they spoke about the environment and for grade 11, it was more focused on the social impact. I think what we’ve started is an engagement between young people at the university level, and very young people at the elementary and high school levels,” explains Joseph. “There is more attentiveness from the school kids than if someone older such as myself were giving the presentation.”

But if the interest and awareness in the children and young teens was impressive, it is the initiative’s impact on the University of Alberta’s engineering students – almost all of whom signed up to participate – that Joseph believes will have the most long-term benefits.

“I think what the program does is literally what we as a university would like to see happen in terms of young professional engineers: it develops an understanding of the importance of community involvement,” says Joseph. “Being able to integrate with communities and provide community service is as important as the technical knowledge the students build. Students are seeing the ben­­efits in terms of their own personal and professional development.”

The initiative is also about fostering a culture of mentorship – something which Joseph believes is key to the mining industry’s success in years to come, especially because of staff generation gaps the industry is facing as baby boomers retire.

“I’ve spoken with other CIM Council members about rolling out M4S across the country, wherever there is a university close to a local CIM branch,” says Joesph. “Maybe we can have some CIM members mentor the university students and go out to the schools with them. We need volunteers from the industry, people who can hit the ground running or who have contacts with local school boards to get this to work.”

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