Next week our famous School Malaise Trap program will start to another hopefully successful fall run. The traps have been shipped and arrived at most of the schools. Some more remote ones will get them in the next few days.
Once again we have selected 60 Schools and some reference sites. As usually we had many many more schools that wanted to participate but with limited resources we can only accommodate for this number. Unfortunately, it also looks like we won't have any funds to continue the program in the future. This is of course very frustrating especially given the continuing huge interest of schools across the country and elsewhere. In the last few years we brought this program in some 400 classrooms with thousands of students. It became well-known as an exemplary way of inquiry based, hands-on learning in STEM. Yet, this didn't help much. We approached quite a few foundations and applied for funding but none seems to be interested to pick up the rather large bill. A run costs something between $800 and $1000 per school, which is way over the spending limit of most schools. The fact that we had the funds to subsidize all past runs allowed them to be part of the project. It is a sad reality that there isn't much money for school education to begin with (or maybe it is just spend elsewhere). Most teachers in Canada have to work on a budget that is shockingly small. I wonder how we ever going to provide the proper STEM education needed to prepare students for the challenges of the future?
At this point our only hope for a comeback lies in the advancement of technology. New HTS technology and metabarcoding might come to our rescue. At some point they will allow us to reduce the costs for the analysis of a single trap catch to a point that it becomes affordable for schools even on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.
To end on a light note - I am looking forward to this last run as I did to all the ones over the past 3 years. We already received blog posts from schools all over the place and one can sense how the excitement builds in the classrooms. I am glad and proud that we were able to bring this to many students in our Country for a few years.