B.C. government ends kids' science program

A popular program that brought science learning to hundreds of thousands of children across the province will come to an end after Premier Christy Clark's BC Liberal government stopped its funding.
The chair of Science World's board of directors said Thurs-day his organization will no longer be able to run the BC Program for the Awareness and Learning of Science (BC PALS), which included a series of educational science programs in communities across the province.

"Science World [would] roll up in a truck and it [would] take its hands-on, highly visual and entertaining form of science learning to kids that just don't get to experience that," said Andrew Harries.

"Why it's so important is we are of the view that graduates in science, technology, engineering and math are the natural resources of the future," he added.

"Any government that doesn't recognize that is shortchanging its society."

Over the past seven years, organizers say, the program has reached an annual aver-age of 190,000 people in communities such as Dease Lake, Haida Gwaii and Invermere.

The program also allowed free field trips to Vancouver's Telus World of Science for kids in kindergarten through Grade 7. It also included career networking events, allowing high school students to learn more about careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Harries said money from Science World's gate receipts and donors helped to fund the PALS program, but "those funds are certainly inadequate to run the program without the government contribution."

Provincial funding for the BC PALS program began in 2005, when the Ministry of Education gave Science World a $5-million grant over five years.

Funding was extended during the province's Year of Science in 2010-11 and then again last year when the province contributed $1 million toward BC PALS.

But this year, Education Minister George Abbott told Science World there was no money to renew the funding.

Grahame Rainey, president of the BC Science Teachers Association, said PALS was a very effective way to get kids interested in science.

New Democratic Party education critic Robin Austin called the decision "dreadful."