Two resources of interest to teachers: The Canadian Science Fair Journal and UNESCO’s Voices of Future Generations books written by young authors.
VOICES OF FUTURE GENERATIONS CHILDREN’S BOOK SERIES
By Aleena Naseem
By now most of us have heard about the Sustainable Development Goals (also referred to as Agenda 2030), adopted in 2015 by nations across the globe to help achieve peaceful and prosperous living both now and in the future. Children have a very important role to play in achieving these goals; therefore to encourage children to think and get involved in helping to achieve them, Voices of Future Generations (a UNESCO project) was launched. Children aged 8-12 were invited to write stories related to the Sustainable Development Goals and submitted them to a rigorous competition, after which selected stories were chosen for publication and professionally illustrated. The books are meant to make children think about their surroundings and their roles, and to empower them, which is a key principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The child authors come from different parts of the globe and share their own personal experiences and perspectives linked to the environment and the social issues addressed by the SDGs. The beautiful illustrations help readers visualize the setting the children are describing. For example, the story “A Tree of Hope” is set in the desert and talks about drought, while “Fireflies After the Typhoon” takes place on a small island and describes the causes and aftermath of typhoons, including the importance of children’s perceptions on the changing climate. Other small island experiences are mentioned in “The Voice of an Island,” which describes beautiful scenery from the author’s grandmother’s time, while the book “A Path to Life” highlights the importance of co-existence with the animal kingdom (especially tigers), in times when our cities have become concrete jungles. The Epic Eco Inventions, The Mechanical Chess Invention and The Great Green Vine Invention provide a first-world perspective on using science to tackle environmental issues.
Going beyond environmental issues, “Forward and Backward City” takes the readers through the varied experiences of people living in different parts of the same city (in Africa), whereas “The Visible Girls” highlights the need for girl/women empowerment. “The Sister’s Mind Connection” tells a story on learning disabilities and how other children perceive and treat children with learning disabilities.
These simply but effectively written stories describe real-life issues and also offer solutions and suggestions as to how children can become involved and play a role in their future. Written for children age six and above who wish to learn about the environment, climate, human (particularly children’s) rights and other compelling issues, these books can be used to invite dialogue and sharing experiences, especially about the Sustainable Development Goals.
Where to find them
For educators wanting to use these books as teaching material, Bloomsbury has consolidated and published an anthology (Voices of the Future: Stories from around the world) along with a teaching guide, available for purchase on Amazon (e-book and hardcover) and Indigo (e-book only). Individual stories can be downloaded free of cost from the Voices of Future Generations website: www.vofg.org/books ; hard copies can be purchased from Amazon (search Voices of Future Generations).
THE CANADIAN SCIENCE FAIR JOURNAL
By Kira Slivitzky and Kirti Vyas
Kalie Bennett loves science.
At the age of 12, Kalie used her personal experience as motivation to create a science fair project that explored whether coloured overlays could improve the reading ability of individuals with dyslexia, like herself.
In May 2018, she won a bronze medal and a scholarship at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. For many young scientists, this would be the end of their projects’ journey… forgotten after the fair. Fortunately for Kalie, this was not the case. In September, she had the opportunity to publish her project with us, the Canadian Science Fair Journal (CSFJ).
With the help of our editors, Kalie was able to successfully publish her work. Most students, however, do not get this opportunity. Despite the vast number of high-level science fair projects completed by Canadian youth annually, hardly any are ever published. There are over 30,000 academic journals in which adults can publish their research, yet virtually none available to youth. According to a 2018 survey conducted by summer research students working at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, only 6 percent of National Science Fair competitors published their work in an academic journal.1
Figure 1: Publication status of Canada-Wide Science Fair participants (2005-2017)
Often, youth are not exposed to scientific writing until late high school or post-secondary school. Founding journal members recognized the need for an open-access platform where youth could publish their scientific research and receive constructive mentorship. This need birthed the creation of the CSFJ: a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes scientific research by youth ages 6-17 years old. The CSFJ helps develop an early understanding of the publication process and the scientific method.
The journal provides young authors with a unique personalized mentorship experience. Members of our editorial board (undergraduate and graduate science students) are paired with young authors and help guide them throughout the editorial and publication process.
To increase the journal’s value as a resource for teachers, we also offer online lesson guides. Teachers can educate their students on the peer-review process, review our published articles for critical reflection and use them as teaching points for scientific concepts.
Cindy Bennell, a Grade 3 teacher from Ottawa, Ontario, regularly uses the CSFJ with her students. “I use it to show my students how to conduct and present their research,” she says. In fact, one of her students was inspired to submit his own science fair project to us.
We released three issues in our first year of publishing (2018-2019) after receiving over 50 submissions by students across eight provinces and the three territories. In the upcoming year, we plan to add discussion points and companion guides with each article for an enhanced learning experience. Additionally, we plan to develop formalized lesson plans to further strengthen our journal as an important resource for educators.
KALIE BENNETT received recognition for her work when Dr. Cherisse Du Preez, a marine ecologist who is also dyslexic, came across her article on our website. Dr. Du Preez was moved to present Kalie’s project during a lecture at the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa and invited her for a private tour of the Institute for Ocean Sciences in B.C. Through the CSFJ, Kalie created an important connection and was exposed to unique scientific opportunities.
Print copies of the Canadian Science Fair Journal can be purchased as a subscription. Articles are also available free of charge online at www.csfjournal.com. Send any inquires or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Courtesy Voices of Future Generations
First published in Education Canada, September 2019
1 N. Acharya, R. Ng, K. O’Hearn, and D. McNally (2018) Unpublished.