Pursue STEM: Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Environment Field Trip

June 22, 2022 by Sheela Manek

Pursue STEM is an Outreach program that encourages and supports Black students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) launched in March 2021. Students have been participating in workshops and activities from the following departments: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, School of the Environment and Statistics. Currently, there are grade 10 and grade 11 cohorts of students in the program. Pursue STEM is delivered in a partnership between Leadership by Design (LBD), U of T’s Office of Student Recruitment, and the Department of Physics.

On June 4, the grade 11 Pursue STEM students went on a field trip with the Departments of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and School of the Environment to test surface water and bedrock chemistry.

The 22 students and 7 staff and faculty visited Old Mill (urban location with shale bedrock), Crawford Lake (non-urban limestone bedrock with stagnant water), and Borer’s Falls (non-urban limestone bedrock with rapid flow). At each of these locations, students analyzed properties such as pH, nutrient levels, salinity, and oxygen concentration using a series of portable chemical techniques.

Professors Daniel Gregory (Department of Earth Sciences) and Jessica D’eon (Department of Chemistry and School of the Environment) helped the students analyze rocks nearby using portable XRF. The results of these experiments were used to discuss how the underlying geology and amount of urban activity affect the water chemistry at these locations.

This was the first time this cohort met U of T faculty, Pursue STEM staff and each other in person since starting the program in 2021. All activities for this group to date have been online due to COVID-19.

From David Bailey (Chair of the Physics Outreach Committee) about the field trip and students meeting for the first time:

“Aside from the science, it really helped them connect with each other in ways that were impossible on Zoom. Before they left in the morning they were mostly standing alone looking at their phones. When they got back I could hear them talking and laughing together from two floors away.”

This trip was organized by Professors David Stone and Barbora Morra from the Department of Chemistry along with Professors Gregory and D’eon.