Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach is a Canadian educational charity founded in 2002. Originally working on international development in India, its primary focus now is science education outreach to First Nations and Inuit communities. With this new direction, Elephant Thoughts has worked in collaboration with teachers from these communities to develop innovative programs that aim to:
These initiatives help to foster the development of important scientific, technical, and life skills among youth. These skills can improve students’ willingness and preparedness for careers in the North, including those in the mining, government, and environmental sciences sectors.
In First Nations and Inuit communities, there is a clear need for engaging, interactive, and sustainable programs to combat the low school graduation rates that result from a lack of adequate, fulfilling, and inspiring education. Many children are two to three years behind their non-Indigenous peers and fall behind on standardized tests, such as Quebec’s provincial math and science exam. However, with support from Elephant Thoughts’ unique science and math programs, graduation rates for students at the Cree School Board in Northern Quebec have increased by a factor of almost 10, from 1.7 percent to 15.6 percent over a three-year period.
Elephant Thoughts also engages community Elders to participate in learning programs and to share their traditional knowledge. This bringing together of the rich resources of traditional Indigenous knowledge with Western science helps build bridges between First Nations and Inuit peoples and other Canadians to foster diversity and discovery for the benefit of all.
Elephant Thoughts practices the philosophy of “teaching a man to fish instead of giving a man a fish.” In all their programs they strive to develop the local community’s capacity to be self-sustaining and to deliver their own effective science programming. They operate as a facilitator and partner, supporting communities and often collaborating with other organizations and charities that already work in the communities. The organization sees science as a catalyst to teach self-reliance and to connect communities through education.
Colonel Chris Hadfield is one of the best-recognized science personalities in Canada. An astronaut of the Social Media Age, he has leveraged with panache the worldwide scope of platforms like YouTube and Twitter to share his enthusiasm for space science. During his five months on the International Space Station (ISS), he tweeted with followers around the world, sent inspiring photographs of the Earth below, and posted unique YouTube videos that let millions of people better understand what life was like in Outer Space.
Many of his videos were recorded during direct “downlink” sessions with students in Canadian schools. His famous “Wringing Water out of a Towel” demonstration, for example, was designed by students from Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia, and conducted as some 1,200 students watched.
Using personal insights and anecdotes, Colonel Hadfield answered questions from students around the world, including the University of Waterloo, and Chris Hadfield Public School in Milton, Ontario. Thanks to his direct involvement, this school has seen a significant increase in science interest among both students and teachers. Their focus on the environment is something that has resulted directly from Colonel Hadfield’s comments on how we as humans have affected our planet home.
Colonel Hadfield also performed numerous science experiments while on board the ISS, including several designed by Canadian researchers.
Since returning to Earth permanently, he has authored a number of best-selling books and toured extensively, lecturing a wide variety of audiences from elementary students to business leaders.
More information on Colonel Hadfield (personal website).