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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's Talk Science Outreach Program at the University of Calgary! Free kits and workshops

Welcome to the home of the Let's Talk Science Outreach Program at the University of Calgary!

Let's Talk Science is a national, charitable, outreach organization that engages post-secondary student volunteers at universities and colleges across Canada to turn kids on to science. Each site is unique and operates in a manner most suited to their communities needs. At the U of C we have many community and faculty partners who generously donate their resources to our site, and as such we are able to offer extremely high quality workshops for school students and the public in Calgary, surrounding communities and rural or aboriginal communities.

If you would like to know more about our programs, be sure to check out the Events and Workshops pages. To inquire about workshops, special events, public events or other activities, email us at

Our Workshops

Hands-on learning is the best way to engage students in science.   Students in hands-on science programs understand the material better, feel a sense of accomplishment when the experience is completed, and can transfer that experience to other learning situations with ease.  

General Information about our workshops

Many of our workshops seek to provide students with curriculum-relevant hands-on activities.  Many also seek to explain something relevant and in the news, or a in way that science topics are combined.  We suggest you start your booking at least one month prior to your anticipated date.

We can tailor a workshop to your needs.  Some of our workshops are in French.  We have a bank of science activities that can be built into a seminar day, workshop, or event in your school.  Some topics can be simplified for Grade 6-9, given as described for Grade 10-12, or more theory or components added for enhanced or advanced classes.  Unless otherwise stated, senior high workshops are usually 1.5 or 2 hours in length; junior high and elementary school workshops are usually 1 hour in length.  

NOTE: Bookings for wet workshops at the U of C are dependent on available laboratory time. The best times to book are during university exam periods, at the end of semesters, and during the winter semester break week.  We usually have Monday AM, Monday PM, Friday AM and Friday PM times with all other times only available with permission.  If the U of C labs are not available, ask us about a Let's Talk Science volunteer to deliver a workshop at your school.



Topic Areas

Many of these topics will flex for younger, older and mixed audiences! 

Curriculum links, Grade, Duration


Biology, Health Sciences, Medical Sciences

(JH &SH)

Note: Our chapter started with DNA WhoDunnit? and keeps adding Bio topics – almost one a year for the 11 years at UCalgary. 


  DNA WhoDunnit? 

It is your job to find out WhoDunnit?! You are working in a forensic lab and have isolated DNA   from a drop of blood left behind by the culprit at    the scene of a crime. Only seven people had access to the crime site at the time it occurred. All are suspects! DNA samples have been obtained from each of these possible villains. Your task is to carry out a "DNA fingerprint" test to try to determine which suspect matches the DNA sample recovered  at the crime scene.

"WhoDunnit?" workshops are available in 1.5 - 2 hour formats (±PCR or other module) for Bio30, AP, and IB programs and are available in UCalgary laboratories or in your classroom.

A Grade 6 Forensics and junior high version is available, usually in combination with DNA101.   This workshop can be offered in your classroom. Available as a kit for trained teachers.


  Other topics in this series:

DNA101 (Genomics); The Central Dogma, DNA mutations, Genomics, DNA Sequencing 

DNA Isolation

Candy DNA Models and DNA Paper Game

Gene Expression: DNA Arrays

The Listeria story

The World of Biotechnology (a combination of many of the above)

The many topics in the DNA series mean we can customize a workshop for your class by grade/age, ability or based on what they have covered. 

With above, this is an LTS National Kit developed here at UCalgary


  Gene Therapy: Moving genes to make proteins

Little green bugs?  In this workshop you will learn how biologists move a gene from one species into another by moving a gene using bacterial transformation.  The result is recombinant proteins and gene therapy. Discussion will show how these techniques are used to now produce recombinant protein drugs for human use such as insulin and growth hormone.

For Bio30, AP, and IB programs.   Workshop takes 1.5 hours.  This workshop can be offered in your classroom or combined with a laboratory session at UCalgary labs. 


Available as a kit for trained teachers. 


  Who Are You? (Who, who, who, who?)

Bioinformatics?  Achoo, mad cow and DNA/protein music.  Do you know WHERE to find the Human Genome? What is a sequence? What gene is it?  What protein does it encode? Are there genetic diseases associated with this gene? How do we figure it all out?  How do we figure out who are   you? You can surf for BioInformatics in your school as easily as at U of C.  All you need is the internet—we provide the assignment and the answers!

Appropriate for senior high Bio, Math, and CompSci students or other students interested in the application of computers to answer biological questions. This workshop is also available at a junior high level.  Duration 1.5 hours.


  Fish or Foul? 

Is the expensive fish you buy at the store is really what the merchant claims?  Students will prepare samples and run a polyacrylamide gel to analyze the proteins found in different fish.   Based on the protein pattern obtained, they will construct a phylogenetic tree. 

Ideal Bio20 evolution unit or for Bio 30 AP or IB students.  This workshop is ~2 hours in length, has an overnight component, and pre- and post- lab classwork are provided.


  The Cell

Animals have blood cells very similar to ours in appearance and function. Learn how to stain and identify blood cells from some different animal species. For more senior students, we include samples of cells in culture and explain how we use them for various scientific studies, including those involving gene therapy and stem cells.

"The Cell" works best with small groups of students if hosted at UofC, or we can bring microscopes to your classroom. Appropriate for junior high (1 hour or longer with larger groups) or senior high (1.5 to 2 hours) curriculums.


  I'm not eating that!

You see a product in the grocery store labelled low salt, low calorie – is it?  How bad is ketchup for  you?  Students will examine the pH, enzymes, protein,  salt, fat, sugar and starch in different foods.  These  tests can be performed in either a quantitative and qualitative manner. In order to perform the workshop in a quantitative manner, standard curves are generated using known amounts of material and then the amount in a particular food is determined. 

Grade 6 to 9 as qualitative types of assays.  Older grades can include quantitative components such as making a protein standard curve.


  Vein to Vein:  Blood Typing

Are you my type?  This workshop teaches students about the blood donation process, from the donor   to the recipient. Content includes learning what is required of donors and how blood processing works at Canadian Blood Services. Students will learn how to blood type (using artificial blood) to find a compatible donor or one of the patients will die.  

This workshop can offered on site at the U of C or in your classroom. Appropriate for Bio20. ~1.5 hours.



  Additional module in this series: ABO Genetics 

Following up on the ABO typing workshop, this section can be used as a great introduction to genetics for Bio20/30AP.  Lecture and computer work. 

With this genetics component, Vein to Vein becomes 2 hours with additional time for post-lab activity.  Great transition topic for Bio20/30.


  Inside an Outbreak: Epidemiology

Welcome to our banquet – enjoy your dinner.  But how many of you will get sick?  Learn the roles of public health personnel in epidemiology—the study  of disease in human populations. Then use your knowledge through role playing to solve several riddles about an outbreak of food-borne disease.  One of those roles will be a hospital microbiologist, another – a banquet attendee! Several other cases will be used to illustrate the importance of infection control in our everyday lives. 

This workshop can be offered in your classroom.  Science 24, Science 10, but can be enhanced or used with other grades or mixed grades.


  Other topics in this series

GermWars and ImmuneWars presentations by UofC faculty that are LTS volunteers.

Bacteriology (see below)

GermWars presentations from JH to SH and adult levels


  The Science of HIV/AIDS

In this interactive workshop we will explain and answer any questions on how we study HIV and  how it causes AIDS. We will also talk about the global issues and the work we have been doing in Africa on HIV/AIDS with our students at the University of Calgary. Hands-on lab work will introduce the cells that get infected and how blood is tested for HIV.

Appropriate senior high (1.5 to 2 hours) curriculums and overlaps The Cell by using blood films. 


  Got a special event?  Ask LTS to come and participate to do several different workshops over a full day.  We can do display/activity tables, help you plan a conference or other special event.  We can provide hands-on, minds-on activities for kids and adults alike. 


Chemistry (JH & SH)

We're always ready to add more chemistry topics!  Special requests mean new topics and workshop ideas. 


  Crime Lab

Armed with a list of suspects and clues collected from the scene of the crime, students become forensic scientists trying to solve a mystery. Techniques used include chromatography, fingerprinting and chemical analysis.

This activity is designed for use in Grade 5-9 classrooms or with children ages 10-15. Workshop takes 50 min to 1.5 hours depending on the amount of content used. 

LTS National Kit


  I'm not eating that!

Add a spectrophotometer and make one of the assays quantitative.  Using a spec, it is best to limit the number of tests done on food. The chemistry of the reactions can be discussed in more detail. 

We have a Spec20 and test tubes to loan.  Got another assay you want to run? 


  Chemical Bonds

A fun way to learn covalent and ionic bonds – use candy as electrons!  Once you master that, you   can test for some of the molecules you just learned to make by qualitative and quantitative assays like a titration for Vitamin C. 

Grade 10 Science.  50 min to 1 hour. 

 New in 2011


  History of the Periodic Table

An example of a workshop built by a volunteer following the recent special request by homeschoolers.

Grade 10/Science 10

 New in 2011


  Clean Enough to Drink?

Quality of our drinking water is one thing, but how healthy is your local pond or river?  Students will perform several tests (oxygen, pH, nitrates, phosphates, hardness, iron, and more) on water samples (snow melt, Bow River water, sea water, local drinking water).  Also, students will be able to examine insects commonly found in fresh water   that are indicators of the health of that water.  

Safe enough for younger kids and interesting enough for older ones too.  Fits Grade 9 environmental chemistry. 

Uses kits from environmental_education_ monitoring.html and water we or your students collect. 


Physics (JH & SH)

Some new topics in development include Air and Aerodynamics and any special request you have. 


  Design it, Build it

This workshop uses the hydraulics class kit from Pathfinders Design and Technology to allow students to build a hydraulic machine to carry out specfic tasks. 

Pre- and post- workshop learning materials available. Building time 1.5 hours or more. See www.pathfindersdesignand for more information about the materials used in this workshop.


  Optics and Photonics

Optics: light and lenses, mirrors, prisms. Photonics: the technical applications of light from ultraviolet, visible to infrared; lasers, fibre optics, transmission, amplification, and detection of light.  This topic combines LTS' optics supplies that include parts  from old microscopes and camera lenses, with the CIPI kit that includes laser transmission, diffraction, refraction, fibre optics, a hologram and more!

Grade 6 to 12.  See for information about the Canadian Institute for Photonics Innovations.  1 to 1.5 hours. 

Kit(s) available for loan. 


  Snap Circuits

Not a workshop currently.  This is an example of a special request you could make and our volunteers would develop it for you.

See for information about the kits. 


  Sky Science

Not currently a kit.  This is an example of a recent request.



Pre-School, Kindergarten, Elementary and Junior High Science


  Tree Murder

A tree dies in the forest.  You need to build a dichotomas key to figure out who died.  How old  was the victim?  How did they die?   Was it murder?  Who's a witness and who's a suspect?  Examine the crime scene environment and see if you are able to figure out what happened.

Grade 7

50 min – 1 hour

Kit available for loan


  Hand Washing

How important is hand washing! Learn how to wash your hands with Glo Germ.  Learn when to wash  your hands and colour a picture about it.  Learn about germs with a bunch of fuzzy, friendly,   petable Giant Microbes.


and for more information about the products we use in this workshop. 

K to 1


  Edible Bacteriology

Make your own bacterial cultures and decorate with (candy) germs.  Learn about some of the cast of microbial characters, like "The Flusies" and "Sam & Ella" that cause disease or live with us, protect us  or make great things for us to eat. 

Grades 1-8.  The depth of material increases with grade.  If possible to get donated materials, culture plates can be provided to classes that want to culture their environment.  


  Feast for the Senses

The search for food is on. Interactive, sensory activities help students understand how animals   use their senses to locate food, one of the keys to survival.

K to 3.  Grade 3,4 includes additional card game about which animals have the best hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste.  1 hour

LTS National Kit


  It's Electrifying

Do electrons come out of both ends of a battery?  Why won't the bulb light?  What's a parallel circuit?  Is wood a good conductor or an insulator?  What's an electromagnet?  How do you build a motor or generator? 

Grade 5, 1 hour LTS National Kit

Older grades can build a motor or generator. 

LTS National Kit

We can add SnapCuricuits too! 


  Ancient Machines

Experiment with simple machines: rollers, wheels   and axles, ramps, screws, gears, pulleys, wedges and levers. Discover how simple machines can change the amount, or direction of force required   to move a load. Problem solving through the use of simple machines and the design, construction, testing and evaluation of a compound machine.

Grade 4 and up

LTS National Kit


  Edible Geology: Snack Tectonics & Pangea Potato

Learn about the earth's plates.  Recreate many geological features created by plate boundaries.  Find the features on the planet with Google Earth.  When done, eat your experiment.  Can include  mining for ores and drilling for oil and crater formations – all edible or mostly. 

Earth Science units

Adapted from Windows on the Universe


  Bounce and Roll

Students learn how balls bounce and roll on  different surfaces and develop their understanding  of forces and motion.

Wings of Discovery kit

Pre-school to Grade 1

  Is there a topic you would like some help with?  We can access more kits through the Let's Talk Science National network of kits for loan.  We can get volunteers to create something just for you that may end up as one of our newest workshops. 

LTS National Lending Library

These kits, like some of those above, have been developed by educators at LTS National. 

Kits available are for K to 6


Dynamic Dinos

The Wonder of Weather

The Bone Zone

Playful Machines (the ones on the playground!)

Entreprenurial Science (invent something, then try to sell it!)

Matter Matters (states of matter)

Budding Biologists