A STEM-tastic Summer 2019 for Visions of Science Youth!

It has been a STEM-tastic summer for our youth! We launched our brand new STEM Camps program in 3 target communities across the Greater Toronto Area, engaged the STEM Leaders in a range of exciting, immersive hands-on experiences, and conducted STEM outreach in communities as part of Science Literacy Week!

Designed for youth ages 8-12 years old, STEM Camps are a full day, 2 week long exploration of STEM learning featuring hands-on workshops, citizen science with Eco Spark, guest speakers, and more. Youth also took part in an ‘Innovation Competition’ where they developed and prototyped inventions addressing real-world problems they face in their local communities. A special thank you to the RBC employees for asking the youth hard-hitting questions!

For 7 weeks this summer, STEM Leaders from 19 of our target communities participated in a wide range of immersive STEM experiences including:

  • Financial literacy with an engaging visit to RBC offices

  • A digital literacy and problem-solving workshop with Ernst & Young

  • A week-long immersion camp to explore life as University students at the University of Toronto Mississauga, the Amgen Biotech Experience, & more!

Many of the young leaders also took on additional roles in STEM fields including:

  • Research projects with University of Toronto (UofT) Department of Chemistry and the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics

  • Guest Facilitators in the Lay-Up Youth Basketball Camp

  • Job placements with partner corporations & more!

During Science Literacy Week, we hosted STEM Outreach events in communities across the Greater Toronto Area, featuring ocean-themed STEM experiences including making kinetic sand, capturing community members in life-size bubbles, and more!

Collaboration With Blynk & Aazoo On TVO Kids!

We’re excited to announce our collaboration with the new TVO Kid’s television series: Blynk and Aazoo!

The Show
Blynk and Aazoo features both animation and live guests, including our CEO Dr. Eugenia Duodu and youth from our programs! The show allows youth to explore answers to their burning questions about the science around them with the help of aliens, Blynk and Aazoo and a real scientist from the “Interstellar Science Council”. The 24 episode series features discovery, ideas, and inquiry-based learning as key messages, and presents science learning in a fun and creative way.

The Collaboration
“The show is driven by the questions that youth have” said Dr. Eugenia Duodu, CEO of Visions of Science. “The series offers a fun and interesting way to spark interest in science and foster curiosity in the minds of viewers.”

Dr. Eugenia Duodu serves as an Educational Consultant for the show and appears on the show as one of the Scientists who enthusiastically answers the intriguing questions posed by youth throughout the series, including “How Can I Run as Fast as a Cheetah?” and “How Can I Get Better Faster?

The Goal
The series supports the mandate of Visions of Science by incorporating kids and scientists from diverse backgrounds as a means to encourage greater participation from underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

You can watch Blynk and Aazoo Weekdays at 8:50 A.M. on TVO Kids or full episodes on Youtube!

AMD Donates Computer Lab

On Friday August 16th, at the opening day of the Canadian National Exhibition, multinational technology company AMD announced that Visions of Science will be receiving a new STEM computer lab!

“We are honored to receive this computer equipment and thrilled to be able to offer enriched opportunities for youth to explore hands-on STEM.” said Dr. Eugenia Duodu, CEO of Visions of Science. “This computer lab will allow youth to explore the newest areas of technology while developing key digital literacy skills essential to participating in today’s knowledge-based society.”

The AMD-powered learning lab will be complete with a set of digital equipment including two class sets of laptops and new interactive digital tools. This portable learning lab has the potential to engage the over 700 youth living in the GTA across the range of Visions of Science’s community-based programs. The increased accessibility to this technology will not only deepen the impact of the STEM curricula delivered in communities but also allow youth to explore new areas including Virtual and Augmented Reality.

“AMD is pleased to be collaborating with Visions of Science Network for Learning to bring a mobile STEM computer lab to Toronto area students. Together with engagement of AMD employee volunteers, the lab will enable Visions of Science to offer the latest in computing technology and STEM education to the high-priority youth they serve.” said Kevin O'Neil, Corporate VP, Legal and AMD Canada Managing Director.

AMD is committed to supporting STEM learning and digital literacy, and increasing access to technological tools for youth from underserved communities to develop STEM proficiency. To learn more about AMD, please visit https://www.amd.com/en.

Volunteer Appreciation Night!

On Wednesday May 8, we hosted our 1st ever Volunteer Appreciation Night!

A token of our appreciation, this evening is our way of recognizing and saying THANK YOU to the incredible volunteers whose passion and commitment bring our mission to life. With 150+ individuals across the organization, this year has been our largest year of community service yet - with volunteers contributing greater than 7500 hours to our programs! We are blown away by their dedication. With catering by Pantry and DJ Eske at the turntables, it was truly a night to remember!

A special thank you to our sponsors for providing raffle prizes including a $250 Via Rail gift card, Body and Soul Fitness gym membership, and Toronto Football Club prize pack! Shout-out to the volunteers and program partners who attended - thank you for celebrating with us!

We also announced some exciting news - we have received a grow grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation and can’t wait to deepen our impact in communities!

To our incredible volunteers, THANK YOU for the work that you do! You are the leaders, mentors, and change-makers making our impact possible in communities across the GTA - we appreciate you!

Volunteer opportunities are now available for Summer 2019! Sign up on our volunteer portal. View the full album on our Facebook!

2019 Visionary Expo: Celebrating STEM Learning at the Ontario Science Centre!

On Saturday May 4th, we celebrated our 7th annual Visionary Expo: a Science Odyssey event hosted by the Ontario Science Centre! Our largest expo to date, this year’s event brought together more than 400 youth, 200 volunteers, families, and community members from 24 communities across the GTA!

The day kicked off with opening remarks from the CEO of the Ontario Science Centre, Dr. Maurice Bitran and afterwards youth got to take part in a keynote presentation by Anthony Morgan, founder of Science Everywhere who left us with an important message: science is not what you think, it’s how! Youth even came prepared with thought-provoking questions for Anthony during an invigorating Q & A period!

The main event of the expo showcased youth learning through innovative, hands-on presentations prepared and delivered by STEM Clubs to engage their peers, families, and community members. The Malton Community STEM Club could be found capturing audience members in life-size bubbles, Swansea Mews sent guests on a virtual reality tour of their community, and Rivertowne shook things up with a self-made Air Hockey table! We were blown away by their creativity and hard work. Finally, six teams took home top category prizes and all youth walked away having completed another exciting year of STEM Clubs!

A special thank you to the Ontario Science Centre for hosting us during the 50th anniversary year! Thank you to Pizza Pizza for sponsoring lunch for the event and OWL for providing giveaways. A warm thank you to our program supporters including Toronto Community Housing, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and TD The Ready Commitment. To our incredible judges who had the tough task of selecting winners, we appreciate you! Lastly, a huge thank you to our incredible team of 100+ volunteers who are the mentors, leaders, and facilitators making this programming possible - THANK YOU!

As we close this year of Community STEM Clubs, we look forward to another exciting year of STEM programs ahead - including the launch of our official Summer STEM Camps!

View the full photo album on Facebook! Photography by Venrick Azcueta.

2019 Visionary Gala: A Night to Empower Youth

On March 29 2019, we hosted our 4th annual Visionary Gala at the Daniels Spectrum, presented by RBC! Thanks to the support of 250 guests and our event sponsors, we raised over $37,000 towards increasing S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) access in underserved communities!

Hosted by Tashauna Reid from CBC News, the evening included an exciting set of performances and speeches. We heard opening remarks from John Carinci from RBC who spoke on their work in inspiring the next generation of youth through RBC Future Launch. We welcomed Emily Mills, founder of How She Hustles, who inspired us with a keynote speech on the importance of taking action to bring the change you seek. Paulina O’Kieffe-Anthony then moved us with a thought-provoking spoken word poem - crafted just for our organization! Youth from our STEM programs also got to share their experiences by delivering heartfelt speeches. We were truly captivated!

A huge congratulations to the winners of our silent auction (valued at over $7000) which included art pieces, engaging experiences, and more! Finally, the captivating evening concluded with an Awards Ceremony to recognize the incredible Volunteers and Program Facilitators who bring our vision to life each week - our impact would not be possible without their dedication!

We would like to give a warm thank you to our guests, donors, speakers, performers, and event volunteers. We truly appreciate the support of our sponsors for making this event possible - including presenting sponsor RBC, visionary sponsor TD, empower sponsors Toronto Foundation and Ryerson University SciXchange, and inspire sponsors Crowe Soberman and Assante Wealth Management. The 4th annual Visionary Gala was truly a Night to Empower Youth!

View the full photo album on our Facebook page! Photography by Sarita Esi.

Black Futures (History) Month: Celebrating Black Leaders at Visions of Science

We’re dedicated to celebrating and empowering black leaders at every level of our organization - all year round!

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Micah Joseph, Grade 10 - STEM Community Leader

“I’m a very curious person. I like to understand why things happen. That’s what I love about science - it gives me the space to seek answers to my questions. The best part is that every time I find the answer to one question, it leads to a brand new one. I get to go from “What’s that?” to “What does that mean?”, and “What can that lead to?”. It’s never-ending! My goal is to use the skills and knowledge I’m gaining in the science world to improve the lives of millions of people in the future.”

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Sumaya Goulet, Grade 11 - STEM Community Leader

“My favorite thing about science is how deeply entrenched it is in the world around us. It’s literally everywhere, from the way we tie our shoelaces to how we’re able to send real people into space. The possibilities are endless and there is so much to learn. This year, I’m taking all three science courses at school. My goal is to carve out my own path in science and be a representative role model for young black people who choose this path after me.”

Our 1st Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser!

Visions of Science supporters are officially fundraisers!

On November 24 2018, we held our first peer to peer fundraising event: The Strikes for STEM Bowl-A-Thon. The cause? Expanding our programs to break down barriers for youth in 5 new communities across Toronto.

The evening included two hours of competitive bowling and teams truly brought their A Game - it was a heated competition! At the end of the night, top category prizes were awarded for highest bowling score (go team Just Bowl No Ramen), team spirit (shout-out to the Qadri Siblings for their creative outfits), and the highly coveted title of top fundraising team (hooray for Visions of Swansea Mews who raised over $1000)!

Thanks to the dedication of over 50 participants who took part and fundraised on behalf of the organization, we raised over $8000 - all proceeds going to expanding our programs in 5 new Toronto communities. A huge thank you as well to everyone who donated - your commitment to supporting youth from marginalized communities makes our impact possible!

One Year of STEM Community Leaders!

The STEM Leaders program is officially one year old! Last summer we launched our youth program engaging 19 participants grades 9-12 in immersive, STEM-based experiential learning opportunities directed towards the pursuit of post-secondary education and enhanced career aspirations.

This summer, we’ve focused on deepening our impact. For 7 weeks, 30 youth from 12 of our target communities visited local universities and institutions where they interacted with STEM professionals and engaged in hands-on experiences. These included:

  • Hands-on STEM workshops with Code Mobile and Ryerson University

  • Behind-the-scenes experiences at Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

  • Space-themed workshops at York University’s Astronomical Observatory and Dunlap Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at UofT

  • The Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program at UofT Engineering

  • A week-long immersion camp at The University of Toronto Mississauga including the Amgen Biotech Experience

To add to their busy schedules, many of the young leaders also took on additional roles in STEM fields including:

  • Data Analysis at University of Toronto Department of Chemistry

  • Communications at the University of Toronto Engineering Outreach

  • Facilitators in the Lay-Up Youth Basketball Camp

Throughout the summer (and entire first year of the program) youth have not only grown as leaders but have developed critical skills, built meaningful relationships and explored STEM in real-world job settings. It has been incredible watching them grow and we are excited to see them take their learning into STEM Clubs this fall - as Youth Facilitators!

A huge thank you to all our partners for making this summer possible - we appreciate you!

Visions of Science Youth Win $5000 for the Charity

Nawaal Ali Sharif and Arefa Tafawa, two senior participants of the VoS STEM Community Leaders Program now have a new title: winners of The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI)!

Developed by the Toskan Foundation, the YPI program connects students in grades 9 & 10 to social issues impacting their community and the local charities that combat them. Nawaal and Arefa, both being 10th grade students, were connected to the opportunity as a project for their Careers and Civics class where they were asked to research a local charity. For these two youth who had been involved with VoS for many years- having begun as participants in the Community STEM Clubs program and grown into STEM Community Leaders- the choice was an easy one.

Why did you choose to profile Visions of Science in your presentation?

Nawaal: We picked Visions because of our personal connection to it. We’ve been a part of the program for so long- we began almost 4 years ago! We knew we wanted to give back for everything it has done for us. That was our goal.

Arefa: When our teacher asked us to pick an organization of our choice, we both instantly thought of Visions. We didn't even use our script for the presentation, we just spoke from the heart! We wanted to advocate for it.

What impact has the program had on you?

Nawaal: Where to begin! My personality has changed drastically. I used to be very shy. Public speaking was my nightmare. My confidence has really shot up since being a part of the organization. I gave a speech at the Visionary Gala and it was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done, but I had a huge sense of accomplishment after. I’m so happy I didn’t back down!

Arefa: When I first came to Visions, I was a shy little potato! I didn’t talk a lot, and I hated public speaking so much it would make me shake and stutter. Becoming a STEM Community Leader has really given me the confidence boost I needed. I've transformed from a shy potato to a crispy french fry!

What does the organization's mandate [empowering youth from low-income communities] mean to you?

Nawaal: It shows that people actually care and want to see you succeed. Being a part of that is truly amazing. It's really cool to see all of these kids become interested in science so fast.

Arefa: We actually demonstrated this in our YPI presentation, where we showed a balloon inflating in two different environments. In the first, the balloon would inflate quickly and very large whereas in the second it would inflate slowly and smaller. We wanted to symbolize that kids growing up in low-income communities face barriers that impact their growth. These kids really need something like Visions to show them that they can actually do it.

Can you tell us about someone who inspires you?

Nawaal: Eugenia! She’s the mentor I really needed. If I wanted to be an athlete, I would look at Serena Williams. If I wanted to be an actress, I would look at Viola Davis. I never had anyone to look up to in the STEM world- until Eugenia! She’s really helping us reach our potential.

Arefa: In Eugenia’s TEDx Talk, she said that there weren’t many scientists of colour and it was a struggle. I admire her for not only getting her PhD but also starting something to help kids do what she did. She didn’t give up along the way and she has so much faith in us!

Stay tuned on our social media to learn more about what Nawaal and Arefa are up to this summer as STEM Community Leaders, as well as their STEM summer jobs as leaders in our summer learning camps!