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Students return to the lab for 32nd anniversary of Project Minerva

Posted on February 8, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Anna Smith
Commentator/Courier

Grade 9 girls from across southeastern Alberta gathered to explore potential futures in STEM alongside Praxis Science Outreach’s Project Minerva.

Science Outreach Coordinator Patty Rooks oversaw roughly 35 students from the city and beyond in a series of scientific workstations at Medicine Hat High School on January 30, from monitoring air quality to basic chemistry experiments; the goal, said Rooks, is to help young women find a passion for science.

“I just have a passion for showing the girls the careers that are in our area,” said Rooks. “I appreciate the urban community, but especially the rural community and the girls there. It’s my hope that they go away to school, get your PhD, get your Masters or your bachelor or your trade or whatever they want to do, and come back here, because these careers really do exist in our community.”

Rooks feels that rural Alberta truly is the heart of the province, and expressed how important it is to continue to replenish these communities and the various fields that make them up.

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the project, which Rooks stressed would not be possible without the generosity of the volunteers and donors, including over 30 women in Medicine Hat and the surrounding area which volunteered their mornings to mentor future scientists in their fields, from veterinarians to chemical engineers.

“I don’t think people know all these careers are right here,” said Rooks. “We have a hospital, and they think all we have is nurses there. No, we have occupational therapists, we have speech therapists, physiotherapy, ultrasound, and that’s just off the top of my head, in one building.”

The program is designed to come at a critical time for students, as Grade 9 students are about to choose their courses for high school and begin to consider their futures and what may be required in order to achieve them, as well as potentially expose them to fields that they may not have realized were career options.

“They often ask, ‘should I be taking Science 14? Or maybe should I take a bio class and chemistry, do I need those in order to go to med college or the U of A or those sorts of things, and we don’t want them to limit their options,” said Rooks. She added that while upgrading classes are available in many cases, it’s often less expensive for the student to complete the courses while still in high school, and Project Minerva can help them realize what classes they may need.

“Today has been just amazing,” said Rooks, “And we couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for our donors. We had the community come together and donate our lunch for us. And the Alberta Women’s Science Network was generous and gave us funds to purchase bussing to get the girls to all their mentor sites this morning, and supplies for our afternoon workshops.”

Praxis has been unable to do some of their programs in recent years due to lack of funding, explained Rooks, which makes the help of the greater community all the more vital to helping Project Minerva take off year after year.

“Our board really felt this is one of our signature programs to continue, as it’s so important for the girls,” said Rooks. “We’re just incredibly grateful.”

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