Sanofi Canada is very proud to award the first annual Biogenius Grants, strengthening equity in STEM learning for Canadian students. The inaugural Grants have been awarded to four diverse secondary schools across Canada to revitalize science education for their students.

Stepping forward to drive Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) education equity among Canada’s youth and addressing the science funding gap in our education system, Sanofi Canada is very pleased to award four new grants to public high schools across Canada, improving access to hands-on STEM learning and instruction in the classroom as part of the inaugural edition of the Sanofi Biogenius Grant program.

“This is about sparking the imagination of the next generation of science innovators. The Biogenius Grant is just one of many efforts that Sanofi is driving to create new opportunities so that every high school student can make the jump to strong and successful careers in health and life sciences,” said Marissa Poole, Country Lead, Sanofi Canada and General Manager, Sanofi Genzyme. “All Canadian youth deserve the opportunity for hands-on learning and instruction in the sciences, regardless of where they live, their socio-economic backgrounds or cultural heritage. We’re pleased to be able to help enhance STEM instruction in public high schools to ensure that there are no boundaries to scientific discovery. Empowering more students than ever before and fostering an inclusive learning experience is crucial in today’s society, and we’re proud to provide critical funding to schools to help those young scientists reach their potential.”

Halifax Regional Centre for Education
Hubley, Nova Scotia

Grade Levels: 7, 8 & 9
Enrollment: 744 students

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As most schools throughout our beautiful province, the building is starting to show its age. Being built in 1965, spaces could use updates, as simple as having more than 2 outlets in a room 🙂

Our hope, and that of our students is that we can freshen up our lab rooms, so they are more welcoming, efficient and adaptive to different learning experiences. We are also hoping to make them more accessible for all of our students and educators.

We would like to see more flexible seating and replace our outdated lab tables, or at the very least be able to resurface them and have proper seating. Fully functional sinks would also be an added bonus. The spaces need to be scrubbed and more welcoming colours and lighting would be amazing.

As STEAM can often be the most accessible to all when the engineering mindset is embraced and low tech is explored (cardboard, loose things etc), we desperately need proper storage for all of these things. We would also like have portable solutions, so we can move the learning from room to room. We are looking to build spaces that are functional, welcoming and are well equipped so staff don’t need to spend hours trying to track down equipment etc and are just able to focus on teaching. We have also recently been batting around the idea of developing partnerships with our local community colleges to help with the design of spaces. Our rooms have some good bones, they just need a lot of help to be all they can be.

Teaching, as with many professions, can be challenging. Finding proper, functioning equipment and rooms should not be one of those. We would love to remove some of this for our staff and just allow them to be able to create more freely. They do so much, with so little it will be amazing to see what they can do with some support.

Again, thank you for this opportunity, it really is amazing. And no matter who gets it, we can’t wait to see what happens. Please share any and all success stories, it will be awesome. We would love to be part of it, whether it is at our school or another.

Toronto District School Board
North York, Ontario

Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11 & 12
Enrollment: 1135 students

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A couple of decades ago, one of the science labs was converted into a Dramatic Arts room. Our science program has expanded so much, we were allowed to reclaim this room this year. We have proposed to convert it back into a science room, specifically turning it into a designated Junior Science space. This room is ideally suited for this, because it is larger than a regular classroom space and already has a small storage room which could be used to house all the equipment used for experiments and activities in grade 9 and 10, organizing them in one place, instead of spread over chemistry, biology, and physics prep rooms. This is especially important, since invariably the multiple classes of the junior grades are taught by different teachers and consolidating the material would make it easier to find and keep track. The room itself is flanked by our science office and the biology prep space, and within the walls they share there is already plumbing available so that we can provide a bank of sinks, eyewash station, and emergency shower on one side of the classroom, and a sink in the storage area for easy preparation and clean up.

Beyond those fixed pieces of equipment which would require a certain amount of renovation, we plan on creating a classroom and experimental space where flexibility is key in the design. Our innovation is to have lab benches on wheels (with locks to keep them in place when necessary). These benches would allow students to work on any traditional paper or chromebook tasks, but also allow them to experiment in pairs, or be repositioned to create square lab workspaces or have larger surfaces for activities, as well as be pushed to the side completely and provide an open space in the centre for whole group kinaesthetic participation. We would like proper white boards on the walls, so that the students can engage in collaborative learning and share their ideas easily with their classmates. The reason for the focus on flexibility is two-fold. Firstly, the grade 9 and 10 courses cover all the broad areas of science (chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and climate) and the ability to reconfigure the room will allow for a variety of activities and experiments to be performed. Secondly, as of this coming September, these two grades will no longer be streamed, which means that we will have a wide variety of learners in the classroom.

One of the ways to try to ensure success and spark scientific curiosity is by providing students plenty of opportunity for hands-on and experiential learning, especially those students from underserved and disadvantaged communities who may feel that they do not have a place in science. These students are not in our enriched program, and they do not seek out our science clubs – it is in this space that we wish to create that we will create an environment for them to find their confidence and their place as life-long learners of science.

Seven Oaks School Division
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11 & 12
Enrollment: 120 students

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Our school would increase students’ curiosity about STEM if we had access to better technology and equipment in our space. We are a very small urban school of 120 students that receives government funding, however, we do not have a dedicated STEM space in our school. In an effort to increase STEM engagement all teachers on staff have reached out to our post-secondary partners to provide for these scientific inquiry experiences. Within our school, students have done some kitchen chemistry experiments, pipetting, and many laboratory simulations through Labster, however, the authentic in-lab experience is missing.

With the help from the Sanofi Biogenius Grant, we hope to purchase several mobile lab carts to provide a bench space for any classroom. Additionally, we hope to purchase a 3-D printer for students to learn how to prototype projects. Ideally, we hope to establish a more permanent space that includes an incubator, micropipettes, bunsen burners, electronic balances, pH meter, autoclave, fridge, hot air oven, fume hood and biosafety cabinet to teach students basic microbiology and chemistry techniques. This space would be ideal for students to bring the learning that they do outside in the community with our partners at post-secondary institutions and to share their interests and passions with their peers, in our own space. It would also serve as a space for all students to discover and independently take on their own projects.

To further help spark scientific inspiration we would continue to take a cross-curricular approach by implementing some new tools. With Labquest 3 devices and tools, we could provide each individual learner with a variety of lab experiences and the ability to conduct data analysis. These Labquest activities could encourage students to take on more complex projects with one of our university partners or via our proposed new lab space. We would appreciate incorporating Oculus 3D virtual reality software into our STEM education that would allow for students to go beyond Labster simulations, so they can explore the human body, explore the solar system or build engineering phenomena. Finally, incorporating a set of Lego Mindstorms Education EV3 for our students would help them practice robotics, coding and tackle STEM concepts in a cross-curricular approach.

The advantage with Labquest 3 devices, 3D virtual reality equipment and Lego Mindstorms kits is that it increases access to every learner. This allows for our STEM education to be more equitable to every learner and allows for that spark to generate curiosity to tackle more complex endeavours, using the more technical lab equipment we wish for. Furthermore, these tools have teacher guides that are easy to follow so that any teacher can be trained to use the devices and facilitate hands-on, minds-on learning in their classrooms. These implementations would be excellent additions to STEM learning for our students and provide for the ultimate cross-curricular STEM education experience.

School District 82 Coast Mountains
Terrace, British Columbia

Grade Levels: 10, 11 & 12
Enrollment: 500 students

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At Caledonia there is no lack of willingness to repair or build what we need. But as the equipment ages, as great and sturdy as the old equipment was, we cannot find replacement parts and, can no longer repair the aging material. In addition, we lack a lot of the technology students in larger centres have access to. Basically, we are missing the technology portion of STEM and STEAM. We have 21st century needs with 20th century equipment. Dynamic tech tools and equipment for modelling would help engage and inspire our students for years to come. Our 1969 school has been maintained but, there are other priorities and things must wait. More than just replacing the old, we need modern.

Equipment and software for analysis, such as Arduino, would be excellent for both the classroom and extra-curricular activities. Ti84 plus CE calculators with CBR (calculator-based ranger) attachments are excellent for motion graphing. A lab set would be useful for both math and science departments. Introductory robotics equipment would also be a welcome addition. A maker station with tools and equipment – Arduino, Lego, Meccano, Kinex, all the building and/or robotics materials in movable storage systems easily moved from one location to another to maximize access. Tablets for electronics, coding and using the interactive simulations that are free from universities (pHet is one example). Stand up stations – whiteboard fronts on the large classroom storage cabinets for group work and brainstorming. Additional outlets for the electronic equipment, the existing islands have been updated with one less outlet, hard to share plug space. Larger lab tables to fit the high school size lab students, even chairs that fit the current tables. For lectures and presentations, touch screen monitors, a surface or tablet with blue tooth to interact with the monitor. There are no teacher designated spaces in the current classroom, our phone and internet ports are connected to one of the islands in the classrooms. We do have new equipment but, in the physics class, the “work arounds” trying to make the technology do more than it is capable of, cause it to fail. Our IT department is fabulous but, even they have limits and, we just need the exact equipment for the purpose it is intended.

In terms of replacing current equipment, a vacuum/compressor combination, rechargeable cells and chargers, connecting wires, a current balance, a digital scale, hand crank generator, electrostatics and electromagnetic demonstrations, and a microscope that can be connected to a monitor for classroom demonstrations. Some student equipment just needs a few pieces to complete lab sets for forces, motion, waves, simple machines.

I would like to see interactive equipment students can play with not just the “do not touch” expensive equipment: balancing birds, sound tubes, Newton’s cradle, spinners, springs, magnets, robots, mirrors, flashlights, color filters, lenses, simple machines, bottle rocket launchers, and snap circuits. What ever subject you are currently teaching, the “fun stuff” should be out to explore. That starts the “Why?” and “How?” questions.

The Sanofi Biogenius Grant program serves to provide diverse Canadian students with access to scientific equipment and learning resources to create opportunities for hands-on learning in school – breaking down barriers, stimulating curiosity and motivating students to explore STEM. Recipients will use these funds to renovate existing laboratory facilities, purchase new science equipment, develop programs that maximize the impact of their lab, or any combination of the above to help pave the way for the next generation of leaders—great thinkers, innovators, and expert researchers who will shape the future of our country. Applications were closed on May 1, 2021. More information on the Sanofi Biogenius Grant can be found at