"Thank you for welcoming us into your classroom. I was very impressed with the maturity of your students and their ability to take control of their own learning without having a teacher watching over them constantly. You have some amazing students — and they asked excellent questions!"

Janet Steffenhagen
Education Reporter
The Vancouver Sun
December 2008

SFU STUDENT BRINGS SCIENCE TO LIFE FOR KIDS WITH L.D.

by Krista Habermehl, Communications Officer for Let's Talk Science • Posted: 06-15-2010

By combining his passion for science and filmmaking, Jason Peterson has helped a group of kids faced with a variety of challenges succeed in a big way — including producing their own award-winning science films.

For the past three years, Jason, a 33-year-old behavioural ecology PhD student and Let's Talk Science volunteer and program coordinator, has been working with 15 Grade 4 to 7 students in the THRIVE program at Nootka Elementary School in Vancouver, B.C.

These students, for various reasons including dyslexia, have had challenges succeeding in the traditional school system. With Jason's assistance, however, they've produced several environmental films for the Panasonic's Kid Witness News national film competition.

"We've found that filmmaking is an excellent alternative education method for these students," says Jason, who is fondly referred to as "Dr. P" by the THRIVE kids. "They take a leadership roll in all aspects of production and learn an incredible amount — not only about the subject matter, but about the filmmaking process as well."

Their 2008 film Talking Trash won a Youth Achievement Award from the Recycling Council of BC and was screened during a media conference at a theatre in downtown Vancouver. Their 2009 film, called I Am Still Creek won the Best Documentary award in the national Kids' Witness News (KWN) contest — which resulted in two THRIVE students (and their teacher) flying to Toronto for the annual KWN Awards Ceremony!

"Jason's efforts to help our students understand the science behind the story played an important role in THRIVE's award-winning film, I Am Still Creek. He has planned and led field trips, taught hands-on science lessons, patiently explained complex scientific topics and taken kids on small group outings," says THRIVE program teacher Tyson Schoeber. "Put simply, his life and work amongst us has been nothing short of a tremendous blessing!"

According to Jason, throughout the process the kids have gained confidence in their abilities and leadership skills and have learned to work well in teams. "These students are so inspiring. None of them have had easy lives, yet they are able to accomplish so much in this program."

While the THRIVE students have overcome many of their own learning obstacles, Jason also had to face an obstacle of his own — the discovery of a brain tumour that required revolutionary new robotic surgery. Instead of turning inward during this crisis, Jason visited the class after his surgery to share his experiences with them.

"The intelligence of the questions the students asked in response to my story [about the tumour and surgery] was incredible! Their questions were much more like those of university students than grade school kids," says Jason. "They wanted to know all the details, how everything worked and what it meant for my future."

This summer, Jason coordinated a successful run in support of brain tumour research, raising more than $8,000 with the help of Let's Talk Science coordinators and volunteers, and THRIVE teachers and parents.

In addition to working with THRIVE, Jason has also travelled to Brooks, Alta., to do hands-on science activities with at-risk youth. During his visit, he engaged students in a variety of hands-on activities related to light and shadow.

This fall, Jason will step down as coordinator of the Let's Talk Science program at SFU.

Although he won't be actively running the program anymore, he says "Let's Talk Science has become such a part of my life that I will continue to be involved for a long, long time.

"Let's Talk Science has given me the opportunity to share my love of science," he says, "and hopefully to inspire students the way my high school science teacher was able to inspire me. Empowering students to use science not only to develop skills and knowledge but the critical thinking abilities and attitudes necessary to thrive in today's world has been extremely rewarding."


About Let's Talk Science:

Let's Talk Science is an award-winning, national, charitable, science outreach organization. We deliver science learning programs and services that turn kids on to science, keep them engaged in learning and develop their potential to become 21st century citizens, stewards and innovators. Through the Let's Talk Science Partnership Program, we engage more than 1,800 enthusiastic post-secondary student volunteers at 30 universities and colleges across Canada to turn more than 100,000 kids on to science, engineering and technology each year.

For more information about Let's Talk Science, please visit our website