SEPARS School Project
It is March 25, 2010 at 7:45am and we (Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio Society - SEPARS) are at Tim Horton's for our last quick meeting before we present Amateur Radio to a class of Grade 5/6 students at Pacific Heights Elementary School in Surrey, B.C.
There is a great feeling of anticipation as we have worked hard to reach this day. It has taken 4 months from the beginning of an idea to the realization of our project.
The beginnings of the idea for this project started as I roamed the HF bands. I heard US school stations identifying and the voices of 12 year old student operators. The students made contact with US states, Canadian, Mexican and Guatemalan stations. I was so impressed with the comments of support and encouragement from all the Amateur Radio operators who responded - local and worldwide. I realized we are not US Amateur Radio Operators, Canadian Amateur Radio Operators, Mexican or Guatemalan Amateur Radio Operators. We are Amateur Radio Operators which share a worldwide kinship. I very much wanted our students to experience the support, encouragement and accepting warmth of Amateur Radio operators.
On November 18, 2009 I emailed Neil VA7DX and inquired if we could perhaps set up a school station with student operators using the special event call sign VG7W promoting the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. Neil forwarded my email to a few other Amateur Radio operators working on the 2010 Olympic special event call sign program for discussion. (Bill VE7XS, Fred VE7IO, Ed VE7EF and Ralph VE7OM) Offers of assistance were extended to me, but the main question was "Has anyone approached the school board or school districts?"
I contacted my friend Alice, a former Principal of the School District of Surrey, and explained to her our hopes of bringing Amateur Radio to the classroom. In our discussions Alice brought to my attention that our project must tie into the curriculum and fall under a specific category (Science, Language Arts, Health/Emergency, etc). Alice made inquiries on our behalf and connected me with Shelagh, Curriculum Resource Centre, Numeracy/Science Helping Teacher for the School District of Surrey. Shelagh was very receptive and enthusiastic about our project and determined the Grade level tie in to curriculum to be between Grade 4 (light and sound curriculum), Grade 6 (electricity curriculum) to High School (electronics curriculum) under the category of Science. Shelagh informed me the next step would be to do an after school work shop for teachers to present our project, including set up of radios and antennas. Upon completion of work shop presentation, individual teachers would be able to extend initiation to their classrooms. I forwarded this information to the discussion group on November 24, 2009.
Fred VE7IO expressed his interest to work on this project with the support of Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio Society (SEPARS) equipment and operators. Our first SEPARS meeting was on December 3, 2009 to formulate plans, objectives, gather information, materials and operators. Fred made contact with Brian VE6JBJ RAC YEP Coordinator and was in the process of contacting a SEPARS member who was also a teacher. His insights as an Amateur Radio operator and a teacher would be very valuable to the project. When I mentioned his name to Shelagh she said he was already on the team as he worked in the science and math department at the district level across from her and they had been discussing the upcoming project from the moment I had contacted Shelagh. Angus' VE7CQU comments on joining the team were "with 8000 employees, a budget of $580 million, and a population of 66,000 students in 125 schools, the district is a rich resource of talent, resources, and present and future Amateur Radio operators." Things just kept falling together!
On January 14, 2010 with the support of the School District of Surrey, we gratefully worked with Shelagh to format our presentation plans for the upcoming Teachers' work shop. Shelagh booked workshop date and location, produced the teacher's invitational flyer, emailed out to teachers, sent follow up reminder emails, offered photocopy services for our handout materials, and would be present at the teachers' workshop to do front loading and introductions for SEPARS.
The Teachers' workshop presentation was scheduled for February 2, 2010. We had 5 teachers pre-register. We set up SEPARS Grab N Go (see April 2010 issue of QST) radios and antennas and presented a teachers' information package to the two teachers who attended. Our demonstration of Amateur Radio was successful and very well received.
We received a classroom invitation on February 5, 2010 from Sandra, a teacher who had pre-registered for the workshop but was unable to attend. She explained how Amateur Radio would be a perfect lead in to "Countdown" by Ben Mikaelsen. (a story about an African boy who makes contact with US Space Shuttle while using a HAM radio) Her class would be reading the novel after our visit. We booked a date for the classroom visit and emailed a teachers' information package to Sandra. SEPARS offered to meet with Sandra prior to the classroom visit to show what we would be bringing into her classroom.
We met with Sandra on March 3, 2010 setting up SEPARS Grab N Go for her viewing and discussed what SEPARS was offering. Our presentation would begin with introductions of SEPARS and members, followed by set-up of antennas and radio equipment - student assisted, short videos, a talk about the video's and explanation of the 5 rotational posts - Handheld, HF, DStar, Morse code and Information. (5 groups of 5 students would rotate through for Hands-on learning at 15 minutes per post.) We were able to borrow a copy of "Countdown" and read the novel during Spring Break. We began to customize the posts to incorporate, educate, and support all references to Amateur Radio mentioned in "Countdown".
March 25, 2010, the lunch bell just rang and I can't believe our Amateur Radio classroom workshop is over. The students had a great time and were very impressed by speaking to Jane ZS6JEB an African station through IRLP (Jane stayed on frequency for 1½ hours and took the time to speak to all 24 students.), enjoyed the Handheld post simulation of ARISS contact, were fascinated with the Radio Amateur's World Map and the world map showing all the countries contacted by Fred VE7IO, enjoyed working the Morse code keyer, were riveted by the ARISS video, and had fun calling CQ on HF. We immensely enjoyed working and sharing our knowledge of Amateur Radio with these bright, enthusiastic, inquisitive students. It was a pleasure for SEPARS to present 2 certificates for the Amateur Radio Basic course donated by the Surrey Amateur Radio Club (SARC) to Sandra's class. We look forward to welcoming 2 young Amateur Radio operators in the near future.
It is very gratifying to know that 24 students will be dismissed from school today and carry with them an understanding of Amateur Radio they did not have the previous day.
With Thanks to Alice, Shelagh, Sandra, Neil VA7DX, Ed VE7EF, Brian VE6JBJ, Jane ZS6JEB, SARC Special Thanks to SEPARS - Fred VE7IO ERC, Alan VA7BIT, Jay VE7OFH, Don VA7GL, Jim VE7HUR, Angus VE7CQU, John VE7TI, Drew VA7DRW, John VA7XB, Bill VE7XS, Ralph VE7OM