Nicole Anthony: Making science personally meaningful for inner-city students
Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario
Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM
John Polanyi Collegiate Institute
640 Lawrence Avenue West
Toronto, ON M6A 1B1
Subjects and grades taught: Science, Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies in Biotechnology, grades 9–12
Described by a colleague as a force of nature, Nicole Anthony is a former-business-student-turned-science-teacher working at an inner-city school serving the largest community housing project in Toronto. Understanding that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty, Nicole—with the help of her pet parakeet, Petri—engages students in science in a welcoming and stimulating classroom.
Nicole brings science to life for her students by making it personally meaningful and relevant. She has them solve real-world problems, and connects science learning to other parts of the curriculum. With a passion for STEM subjects in their own right—and as areas in which girls can excel—she also sees them as a way to foster collaboration and inspire creativity.
STEM in the Classroom
- Introduces university-level technology skills (and gives students experience on the required equipment): students amplify, visualize and analyze DNA, measure the oxygen plants use, and plan and execute their own experiments
- Presents real-life problems to solve: following a media report about poor air quality in schools, students designed a living wall for the classroom, managing the grant budget and sourcing the necessary materials; a biotechnology course has students use various techniques and equipment such as to identify the DNA of a criminal suspect; "citizen science opportunities" give students a chance to contribute to ongoing research projects, such as one monitoring the health of a local watershed
- Integrates science education with technology class: students pursue common projects—such as studying the design of maple keys and then improving it for better flight—and receive grades for both courses
- Founded the Metamorphosis Girls STEM conference, the largest such gathering in Canada, to encourage more girls to enrol in STEM courses and help close the gender gap in STEM fields
- Won award and funding from the U.S. National Science Teachers Association to rebuild her rundown science lab
- Launched Ministry-registered private school and non-profit science outreach organization, GENEius Science, which runs biotechnology programs on weekends and in the summer; Nicole applied for grants and did crowdfunding to get it off the ground
- Introduced science fair in Grade 9 with 100-percent participation; school now takes part in city-wide science fair, with excellent individual results; Nicole mentors other science teachers wanting to similarly engage their students in these competitions and biotechnology
"Ms. Anthony has been one of the most inspiring teachers for me because she has opened my eyes to how captivating science is, and she has also shown me the important role women play in STEM."
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