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Science Literacy Week 2019

Another fantastic week of events and activities all dedicated to celebrating STEM education and Canadian scientists.
October 03, 2019

This past September, SciXchange participated in Science Literacy Week (external link, opens in new window) , a national celebration of Canadian science and research from coast to coast to coast! Each year, SciXchange is a proud host for this annual celebration, and was stoked to bring science out of the labs and to the general public on campus and beyond. 

This year’s theme was oceans. Canada is surrounded by the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, and is home to hundreds of ocean facing communities, large and small. Coastal cities experience a unique environment due to their relationship with the water, and face direct impacts as the oceans’ ecosystems evolve due to things like climate change. To highlight this aspect of Canada, Science Literacy Week sites featured events and activities to teach about the degradation of marine habitats, discoveries of new aquatic species, and the research conducted in Canada to learn more about the oceans as we know them today, and how to protect them for the future. 

In addition to ocean research, SciXchange mixed it up by adding programming for computer literacy, Ryerson University’s 50+ program, and Indigenous science. For the first time ever, SciXchange presented a spotlight on Indigenous science, a subject not usually considered to be part of the usual STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) family. Because Indigenous science impacts society in ways that are not usually acknowledged, it was crucial for SciXchange to present a fresh perspective during Science Literacy Week in order to spark new learning and conversation. Continue reading below to learn more about each Science Literacy Week event!


Nautilus Live

Celebrating the ocean research theme, SciXchange presented a livestream video chat in the Sheldon and Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre (SLC) on campus, with the Nautilus Expedition (external link, opens in new window)  research vessel. Launching the 5th year of exploration in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Nautilus Expedition surveyed previously unexplored regions along the west coast of the United States, and the central Pacific. Science Literacy Week guests dropped by the SLC for a one hour live stream to learn about the ship and research directly from the Nautilus team who were on board and heading to Hawaii! 

Along with the livestream, guests participated in activities presented by various Ryerson University organizations and student groups. This included Ryerson Urban Water’s (opens in new window)  fantastic spotlight outlining which common household items are flushable or not flushable, even though the packaging may say it is safe to discard the item into the toilet. The Biology Course Union (opens in new window)  demonstrated items commonly found in oceans, why they do not break down, and how this is greatly impacting bodies of water all over the globe. Lastly, the Ryerson Science Society (external link, opens in new window)  communicated the difficulty, and sometimes inability, to remove trash from polluted oceans. 

A field trip of students and teachers visited to watch the livestream in the SLC on the big screen.

Elementary students and their teacher visiting the Ryerson Science Society and learning about ocean pollution from our volunteer, Paniz.

Public Talks Speaker Series

This year, SciXchange and the Chang School of Continuing Education (opens in new window)  partnered to host science seminars for seniors. One of SciXchange’s newest Student Outreach Leads, Maria, took the lead organizing this event with the following Ryerson professors in fields of environmental science and physics:

Dr. Stephanie Melles described geo-computational techniques to study the effects of climate change, and other ecosystems.

Dr. Bryan Koivisto introduced his work on fabricating next-generation photovoltaics, including dye-synthesized solar cells.

Dr. Miranda Kirby discussed how medical imaging is used to study lung disease, and the new ways being developed to extract information from medical imaging technologies.

Dr. Sean Cornelius explored the implications of being interconnected, and how we can build smarter networks and stop cascading failures in their tracks.

SciXchange and the Chang School plan to work together to continue this outreach with a science for seniors seminar series.


Computer Literacy Sneak Peek

With a growing demand for digital technology skills and competence, SciXchange developed a new addition to its school year programming all about enhancing computer literacy. Over the summer, Leigh (Enrichment & Outreach Coordinator) and Jenna (Student Outreach Lead) focused much of their efforts on researching and understanding the current demand for tech learning, and how to effectively deliver the material. During Science Literacy Week, guests attended an introductory workshop to learn about coding and robotics by playing with intriguing gadgets and programs, such as MicroBits, Arduinos, and the MIT App Builder. After two hours of innovative learning, guests left with an increased understanding of how digital languages and physical parts can be combined to bring something to life.

Hide Tanning in the Quad

For the first time ever, SciXchange introduced Indigenous science to its event line up. Our Indigenous Knowledge & Science Outreach Coordinator, Amber, spent most of the summer visiting Thunder Bay and her home reservation, Neyaashiinigmiing (external link, opens in new window) , to learn about the process of brain hide tanning. Yes, you read that correctly! During Science Literacy Week, Amber, along with 4 Indigenous science experts, led a 4-day exhibition demonstrating how to tan deer hides using the animal’s brain. The four step process included scraping, braining, stretching, and smoking of the hides. 

The brain contains a high concentration of fats and oils that are essential for softening the dense deer hides. The hide tanning team massaged the hides into a liquid mixture of deer brain for about 30 minutes, and then let them soak overnight. Along with this, the hide tanning team scraped and stretched the hides to soften them, and smoked them to waterproof the skins, which provided them with a natural yellow colour. 

During the hide tanning event, Ryerson University hosted the Ryerson Pow Wow (opens in new window) , and SciXchange was invited to showcase the tanning process for guests. The pow wow included several traditional ceremonies and performances, such as the sunrise ceremony, as well as a vendor market to promote local Indigenous artists and business owners, where guests could purchase and learn more about their products. 

Science typically includes subjects like chemistry, biology, medicine, coding, astronomy, and more. However, Indigenous science has impacted society for generations without being fairly recognized and understood. SciXchange is striving to incorporate Indigenous science into its programming in order to challenge and expand the current understanding of science. Learn more about SciXchange’s Indigenous science initiatives. 


Soapbox Science

This annual event is one SciXchange now looks forward to every September! We wrapped up Science Literacy Week at the Toronto Harbourfront Centre during the Word on the Street festival on Sunday afternoon. Organized by Leigh Paulseth, Soapbox Science (external link)  showcased a dozen remarkable female scientists who spoke about their research to festival-goers. Some topics included an introduction to artificial intelligence (AI), the mysteries of space and space exploration, how our cells communicate between each other and what they are saying, and so much more! Females are still underrepresented in the STEM population, and Soapbox Science aims to normalize the presence of women in science.  In the process it sparks females of all ages to take an interest in science. Each year we see young girls with their families and hope they leave with a new passion for learning more about our scientific world. 

Overall, Science Literacy Week was a grand success! The SciXchange team prepares for the week long occasion for over a month leading up to September. However, it could not be pulled off without the support of its student volunteer community and other faculty and staff throughout the Ryerson network. Here’s a big thank you to everyone who came out to participate, assisted in planning and executing an activity, and ultimately contributed to an amazing week of science education! Be sure to stay connected all year long to never miss out on an event or opportunity. Follow us on Facebook (external link, opens in new window) , Twitter (external link, opens in new window) , and Instagram (external link, opens in new window)  for updates and announcements.