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The science of social impact: U of T startup, Pueblo Science, earns official charitable status

pueblo science teacher with students

Photo courtesy of Pueblo Science.

Science literacy startup celebrates five years

From the streets of Toronto to the classrooms of the Southeast Asia, Mayrose Salvador’s startup Pueblo Science puts knowledge in the hands of those who need it most: kids.

The startup works in Canada and abroad to inspire and develop young scientists through interactive workshops, camps and events such as “Science on Ice,” where experiments take place during university hockey half-time breaks.

It all began five years ago when Salvador co-founded Pueblo Science with Professor Cynthia Goh. The startup developed through the Impact Centre, one of U of T’s entrepreneurship hubs now accepting applications for its summer program.

The venture received official charitable status this year.

Below, Salvador reflects on her experience bringing science to society through a socially-driven startup:

How has Pueblo Science grown since you started out?

It’s been an amazing journey. When we first began our work in 2011, we only had a handful of members and five brave volunteers signed up to train 100 teachers in the Philippines. Now we have over 250 volunteers in Canada and overseas, and our team of 20 instructors is gearing up to train 1,000 teachers in the Philippines and Thailand this spring.

This year, we celebrate our fifth anniversary. We are now a registered charity. Our training programs have expanded not only within the Philippines but also to countries like Bolivia, India and Thailand. In the Philippines, our programs have become very popular with teachers and are now supported by the federal Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology. In Ontario, we have developed multiple partnerships with universities, community centers, libraries, and various other organizations to deliver monthly programs for students, parents and the general public.

What are you most proud of in the work and projects Pueblo Science has achieved?

I am very proud of the impact we are making in children’s lives in Canada and internationally. The very positive feedback from the teachers, the laughter and enlightenment that we see in students’ faces after they attend our programs makes our members and volunteers incredibly proud to do this work.

Some of these experiences are actually revealing a whole new set of possibilities to some children, and that can have a fundamental impact on how they see the world around them and what they pursue as a career in the future. Giving kids the long-lasting desire to be curious about the everyday and training educators how to create simple activities for their own classroom, that is very gratifying.

What’s surprised you on your journey developing Pueblo Science?

I knew when we started that I would have to learn many things to direct a charitable organization. But after five years, I am still amazed at how much more work is needed behind-the-scenes, beyond delivering our programs to kids and teachers. At the same time, I am also humbled by the generosity of the many people who have helped us over the years. They are very much willing to put in expertise, hours, and resources to help us along the way — and I am so grateful to all of them for their unconditional support.

How did U of T help you in developing your startup?

The Impact Centre at U of T gave me the foundational knowledge to start Pueblo through their entrepreneurship training programs and, to this day, their staff is still essential to our existence. The Impact Centre is our main source of advice, connections and much-needed resources when needed.

We also recruit many of our talented volunteers from U of T. Many departments have supported us by allowing us to use space for our activities. Our Science on Ice program with the U of T Varsity arena helped us connect with other Ontario universities. Collectively, these collaborations benefit over 10,000 kids every year in the province.

What are your hopes for Pueblo Science in the next while?

We hope to build our donor base and raise sufficient funds to deliver our programs this year as we envisioned it. In the next few years, we would like to expand our programs to other countries that need our help. For this to happen, we need to attract volunteers and directors with the right skills to help or guide us in making the organization efficient and sustainable and support us in our vision to bring that “science spark” to places that need it most.

With files from Scott McAuley.