SEEDS at York U facilitates science education for refugee families

A new multidisciplinary grassroots initiative out of York University has launched to engage newly arrived refugee children in science education.

Science Rendezvous
Families residing at COSTI’s Ralph Chiodo Family Immigration Reception Centre in Toronto were taken to Science Rendezvous

The initiative, Science Enrichment and Educational Development for Syrians & Refugees at York University (SEEDS at York U), is raising funds to take the children and their families, from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia, to various science-oriented, educational events.

Families residing at COSTI’s Ralph Chiodo Family Immigration Reception Centre in Toronto were the first to participate, and were taken to Science Rendezvous at the Markham’s Farmers Market earlier this month.

“We are overwhelmed by the tremendous support from York University students, staff and professors who have donated time and money to support the transition and integration of families settling into Canada through science education,” said Sapna Sharma, a York U biologist who is leading the steering committee for SEEDS at York U.

At Science Rendezvous, the children took part in science demonstrations, hands-on activities and experiments, and were treated to a pizza lunch.

“Their enthusiasm for every aspect of the day, including the bus ride to Markham, was infectious,” said Sharma. “A common sentiment expressed by the refugees was: ‘We are happy because we are safe.’ ”

The Mayor of Markham, Frank Scarpitti, was on hand to welcome the families to Science Rendezvous and said “I am especially happy to welcome the refugees here to Science Rendezvous. It is so wonderful to see how Canadians have come forward to welcome new Canadians.”

Volunteer translators, including Jala Rizek and Nahla Salem who are currently  graduate students in the Department of Psychology and Schulich School of Business at York University, helped coordinate the transportation and engage in science activities with the families.

“It was a humbling and emotional day for all volunteers to hear of the hardships the families endured, yet the enthusiasm with which they enjoyed their new life in Canada,” said Dawn Bazely, a York U biologist.

SEEDS at York U is currently accepting donations and planning for their next outing.

“The dedication and commitment from York U students to helping improve the lives of others is inspiring,” said Samantha Stefanoff, a York U biology graduate student. “We are encouraged by the support from our scientific and student community as we plan further outreach events this summer.”

For more information on SEEDS at York U, visit or contact Sapna Sharma at or ext. 33761.