By: Lisa Bannerman, RO, RCLP

This article first appeared as a blog post on the COA website in 2014, and has been edited for easier viewing on the web. Some of the information in this article may be out of date. Refer to our current static website pages for correct information.


A group of colourfully dressed school children


Back in 1996 on the way to a council meeting, then Education Director Maureen Hussey asked if anyone wanted to do a school presentation as she had been asked if we had any members who may be interested.  Time was short, so I said that I would call and see what I could do.  Thus began an 18 year commitment that easily is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.  I have had a couple of years during that time span when I have been unable for various reasons to commit to presentations, but for the most part, I do 5 – 15 per year.   The time commitment is roughly 1-3 hours at a time and will likely involve at least 2 presentations. Though the statistics only go back officially to 2006, when I spoke with the Communications Manager last week, she estimated that I have done 225 presentations in my 18 years, and spoken to more than 5600 students face to face.

The Science Hotline as it was called in 1996, had a group of volunteers, some equipment and a very enthusiastic  coordinator who would go out of his way to make sure volunteers had what they needed.  Eventually the Science Hotline became the Calgary Science Network.  The list of volunteers grew, as did the supply of equipment for volunteers to use, and the coordinator’s position became much busier.  In January 2014, the Alberta Science Network was formed through a merger of the Calgary Science Network and the Alberta Science Literacy Association, building on a foundation that has been uniquely Albertan for more than 20 years.  By bringing together networks across the province they are now active in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grand Prairie and the surrounding areas.  As much as I would like to keep these presentations to myself, the truth is the Science Network needs additional volunteers for all areas including Calgary.  I’m not entirely sure how many presenters they have for the Light and Shadows unit, but I believe there are at least 3 of us, from different science backgrounds in Calgary.

I have presented to three different grades, based on curriculum that relates to Opticianry.  Primarily, it has been grade 4 Light and Shadows.  Next is Grade 8 for Light and Optical Systems and finally only a couple of times for Biology 30.  I have to say that the grade 4’s are my most favorite as they are so enthusiastic, ask tonnes of questions and can’t wait to tell you about their dog who has cataracts (often they will include other details such as the dog also ate their moms fancy underwear or some other fact not related at all to the presentation, but that’s what I love!)  I have learned with experience, how to tailor my presentation for the grade 8’s in order to teach the material without as much involvement from them as they tend to not want to answer questions the same.   One of the advantages to how this program has grown over the 18 years I have been involved, is that they now offer training sessions on public speaking, and a few training workshops every year to help volunteers be confident and successful.