Profs give back to support science education

By Patty Pitts

Gaines and ShawGaines and Shaw (standing) and UVic President David Turpin observe as young Science Venture participant Lauren Roberts tries out science education software. Credit: UVic photo services

During their careers as university professors, Vancouver Island residents Mildred Shaw and Brian Gaines shared a deep desire to help their students become engaged in science, mathematics and technology. The couple also encouraged their university students to inspire those they taught in a similar way.

Now retired, the couple will continue to assist students through a donation of over $500,000 to the Faculty of Education to establish the Constructivist Education Resources Network (CER-Net). It will assist UVic education faculty and students to advance their research and develop resources in science, mathematics and technology education. Shaw and Gaines will also continue to donate to the fund on an annual basis.

The couple practiced “constructivist education,” empowering students to understand how they each construct meaning from their current knowledge and experiences.

Practitioners facilitate students’ understanding of the way in which their cultures and prior experiences affect their learning and help students interpret information in a context that is familiar to them.

In the 1980s, Shaw developed several software systems to help learners to understand their individual constructive processes. Gaines, in addition to holding several academic appointments in his career, was a founding director of several companies.

“We have been generously funded throughout our careers and it is a pleasure in retirement for us to be able to support the next generation,” says Gaines. “We encourage further donations to this fund.”

“Faculties of medicine, science and engineering are often high profile foci for gifts to universities, while the significant role of faculties of education in providing all students with a working knowledge of these disciplines can be overlooked,” says Shaw. “General science education, especially in schools, provides the motivation for our future scientists and engineers and lays the foundation for everyone to have informed engagements in science technology, societal, and environmental issues.”

“We are honoured that Dr. Shaw and Dr. Gaines share in our mission to produce world-class educators,” says UVic Dean of Education Ted Riecken. “Their gifts and future contributions will ensure we are able to continue to prepare teachers with a strong background in constructivist learning theories that are applicable in a wide range of educational settings.”

Originally from England, Shaw is a computer scientist and psychologist and a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the British Computer Society and the British Psychological Society.

Gaines, also from England, is an engineer and psychologist and a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the British Computer Society and the British Psychological Society.

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