Isabel Nelson (SFU Physical Geography), Monika Jandu (UBC), Rabina Jandu (SFU Health Sciences), Gurbir Suri (UBC), and Nima Tehrani (SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) comprise Young Minds Exploring Science

Leaders and Learners

March 17, 2023

In early 2021, about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, five students from SFU and UBC came together to persist in their passion for bringing STEM to young learners in Surrey. Isabel Nelson (SFU Physical Geography), Monika Jandu (UBC), Nima Tehrani (SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), Gurbir Suri (UBC), Rabina Jandu (SFU Health Sciences) comprise Young Minds Exploring Science. Delivering their program met with some challenges, but as with so much community engagement work, maintaining respectful communication with partners continues to allow them to engage in their passion for engaging young leaders and learners.

What's been the most fulfilling part of working on this project?

The most fulfilling part of our project is seeing students come out of their shells and show their curiosity as the program progresses. During our early sessions, many students can be shy and hesitant to participate. However, our goal is to have every student interested and engaged. In an online environment this can be harder to facilitate, but through interactive activities, like breakout rooms and group discussions, the students generally become more engaged by the end of the program. It is rewarding to see the students grow socially and academically. We especially see this when they pose intelligent questions that represent their comprehension and enjoyment of the content being delivered.

What have been yours and your community partner’s biggest challenges working through your project?

The biggest challenge for the Young Minds Exploring Science team has been adjusting our program structure to fit the needs of our new partnership. In the past, we have become accustomed to running our program for a large group of students (30+) on a weekly basis during the weekend. However, with the Welcome Centre, we changed this format to once a month on the first Tuesday of the month. On top of this, we had a smaller group of students to work with (around 15). To account for these differences, we focused on making changes that would allow for those same fruitful conversations to happen within the smaller cohort. Additionally, knowing that many of our students from the Welcome Centre have varying levels of comfort when it comes to English, we focused on offering multiple ways to deliver our material, such as through visual examples or hands-on activities, in an effort to cater to different students' learning styles.

If you had the chance, what would you do differently?

As discussed above, we switched to a less frequent format of hosting sessions once a month. Although this was needed to accommodate capacity constraints, we think that having sessions slightly more frequent would allow for better relationship building between students and session facilitators. Seeing each other more frequently would hopefully build a higher level of comfort for the students and allow them to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas more freely. However, the change to less frequent sessions has freed up capacity for everyone involved in the planning process. Perhaps in the future, a balance can be struck in terms of session frequency, such as bi-weekly as opposed to monthly. If increasing frequency is not possible, another avenue could be to lengthen the cohorts, thus allowing students more time to build relationships with the session facilitators. We currently facilitate cohorts of 15 students for 4 months at a time, with two cohorts per year, so we can deliver the program to 30 students annually. Alternatively, we could deliver the program to a cohort of 30 students that lasts for the entire school year.

Any wisdom/advice to pass on to others who might try a project like this?

While launching a project like ours takes a lot of effort and hard work, it is all truly worth it in the end. It is so fulfilling to be able to use the knowledge that we have learned throughout our undergraduate experience and create a meaningful workshop for younger students. Above all, the most important aspect is fostering a safe yet stimulating environment where students can grow as leaders and learners. Our hope is that through programs like this, students are inspired to continue learning, leading and making connections with others.


Hey, students  – What would you  do with $3,000?

Up to $30,000* is available to fund SFU students who want to work with community partners to create meaningful impact. Register today – all you need is your name and a brief description of your idea.