My Day @ McGill welcomes 140 elementary students to downtown campus
By Neale McDevitt
A group of Grade 6 students from F.A.C.E. school huddle around the half-dozen workbenches in Jean-Marc Gauthier’s lab in Otto Maass, their smiles speaking volumes about the kind of day they are having. “I’d come here every day,” says one boy to his friend as the experiment they are conducting – making homemade ice cream using liquid nitrogen – reaches a critical stage and begins billowing white smoke.
It is a sentiment echoed out loud by one of his classmates 15 minutes later, when the group begins sampling the delicious fruits of their labour while Gauthier explains to them the science behind their creation. “Can we come back tomorrow?” the girl asks, only half in jest.
The look on each face says it all. Best. Chemistry. Class. Ever.
And that’s the very essence of My Day @ McGill – to expose elementary school students to higher education and leave them wide-eyed and enthusiastic. “It’s really a great program,” said Veronica Amberg, Manager of the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) office that organizes the event. “Everyone seems to have so much fun – the elementary school kids and the McGill students, staff and faculty who help out with the various activities.”
In all, a total of 136 elementary school students from Riverview, Verdun and Orchard Elementary schools of the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the FACE school on University Street (EMSB) took part in My Day @ McGill which, now in its third year, had expanded so much that it had to be held over three days; March 28 and April 2-3.
This unique initiative is part of a partnership between SEDE and the Lester B. Pearson School Board that encourages academic engagement and acts as a bridge between McGill and the larger Montreal community. “The goal of this project is to give kids more access to higher education,” said Amberg. “Many of the schools we work with are underrepresented [in universities], so we want to inspire these students by showing them the opportunities that are out there.”
This year’s iteration of My Day @ McGill saw kids taking part in everything from building structures with marshmallows to learn about the principles of engineering, to sitting at the wheel of a McGill-built racecar. Along the way, kids had a chance to try their hand at everything from neuroscience to drama to learning about Indigenous culture at First People’s House.
“It’s really been a wonderful day,” said Nitza Lintzeris, a French teacher at FACE accompanying the students. “Everyone was so excited when we heard we were going to come to McGill and it has certainly lived up to – and surpassed – our expectations.”
Of course, without participation from the University community, My Day @ McGill wouldn’t happen. But getting people to help out is never a problem. “The collaboration with McGill people has been fantastic,” says Amberg. “What’s really special is the McGill students that have been helping out [with SEDE outreach programs] in local schools all year are here so the kids know them. McGill students are wonderful. And people from the different faculties have put a lot of thought into their activities and it shows. The kids are having a great time.
“Who knows? Maybe we have some future McGill students in this group.”