A St. Albert science teacher has received a provincial award for his many years of chemistry wizardry.
Paul Kane chemistry teacher Michael Ng received the 2023 Alberta Teachers’ Association Science Council Outstanding Science Teacher Award at the council’s annual conference in Canmore on Nov. 2-4. The award (which this year is a framed copy of the painting “The Curious Bear and the Man in the Moon” by Jason Carter) recognizes excellence in science teaching in Alberta.
Ng was nominated by a fellow teacher for his efforts to promote science to the general public through exciting chemistry demonstrations, and for teaching teachers how to use those demos in their own classrooms, said council president James Slattery.
“Trying to get a 17-year-old motivated to learn first thing in the morning isn’t always easy,” Slattery said. Ng’s dramatic demos create that spark of interest to get students hooked on science.
Ng is well-known around St. Albert and Edmonton for his elaborate chemistry demonstrations, which typically involve changing colours, vomiting pumpkins, fireballs, projectiles, and explosions. He holds regular sessions on science magic in the classroom at Alberta teachers' conventions and on Global TV. Some 900 elementary students saw him and other area scientists perform feats of scientific sorcery last Oct. 25 at the ninth annual Maki(Ng) Halloweenie Spooktacular Science Magic Show.
Ng said he hit upon the idea of spicing up his lessons with explosions early in his career when he accidentally lit the science prep-room’s trash can on fire, to the amusement of his peers.
“I went, 'well, if it’s going to make people laugh, I might as well try and see if I can make my students laugh,'” he said.
Drawing upon the work of science educators Bassam Shakhashiri, Steve Spangler, and Joe Schwarz, Ng cut his teeth on flashy science demos during his days as a student teacher at Bellerose Composite. Later, he started giving talks on scientific magic tricks in the classroom before packed rooms at teachers' conventions, and became an active volunteer with the Science Olympics and the University of Alberta’s Let’s Talk Science program. These experiences recently helped him earn a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Ng said he does his demos to get young kids interested in science. Many of his high-school students tell him they remember being at one of his Spooktacular shows back when they were in elementary.
“I always believe laughter is a key thing in learning,” Ng said.
“If they’re (laughing), they’ll bring an unforgettable learning experience back to the dinner table and they’ll remember why they got into sciences.”
Ng said he hoped to continue doing science demos well into the future.
Visit www.atasciencecouncil.com/awards.html for information on this award.