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Science Odyssey - celebrating science in Canada

While my friends were off to Ottawa for this year's 2018 Canada-Wide Science Fair I was in Canmore to help celebrate science in the Canadian Rockies. Both these celebrations of science in Canada are collectively called "Science Odyssey". This year, May 11 to May 20.

My volunteer duties had me in the Canmore Civic Centre directing the scheduled ten classes, approximately 220 students in total. The event was coordinated by Sami Wackerle, the program director of the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre. The classes were scheduled to spend approximately 25 minutes in each of the venues. My job was to keep an eye on the clock and help the students circulate through the various displays in the foyer of the civic centre and when the time was up, direct them on towards their next science odyssey location.

It was a very busy time in the foyer. Each student was supplied with an event passport. Once they completed one of the nine activities they had their passports stamped. The students could do these in a random manner. I kept an eye on the stations and tried to ensure that only about five or six students were at a display at a time, enabling a good conversation with the science professional at each of the tables.

At the station nearest the doorway to the museum, there was my friend Adam and his colleague Ryan, both from Canmore Cave Tours, explaining the natural history in Rat’s Nest Cave. The cave was recognized as a Canadian historic place since 1987 for its remarkable geological formations and its rich collection of paleontological resources. I overheard Adam and Ryan talking to students about everything from bat DNA to why teachers once used chalk.

Next up was a display from the Canadian Rockies Earth Science Resource Centre. Rick and fellow geoscientist Tad have a display and program aimed at the junior high science curriculum which gives students an opportunity to see what kind of things a geologist or a geophysicist does to find oil and gas underground. They were showing the students how a knowledge of fossils from the Devonian period along with deciphering seismic data help them visualize what lies beneath the earth’s surface.


A committee of the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG), Earth Science for Society (ESfS) “believes that increased science literacy is essential for the students of today as they are the decision-makers of tomorrow and the future caretakers of the Earth.” With that in mind the ESfS established a team for Science Odyssey activities. In Canmore, students were encouraged to touch and examine fossil trilobites, explore rocks and minerals and determine where they fit in the rock cycle. I was intrigued watching the students thump the table to generate seismic waves simulating an earthquake.

The Interpretive Guides Association brought a great collection of skulls and scats and challenged students to speculate the origin and animal responsible. The grizzly bear paw print was a little intimidating for sure.

Guides from Parks Canada brought excellent examples of Burgess Shale fossils and engaged the students talking about evolution, time-lines and the Cambrian Explosion.

I met Michelle from the Lafarge Learning Rocks and Minerals Program. She showed samples from her program developed in conjunction with Lafarge and the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre designed for elementary students. Students visit both the museum and the Lafarge plant to learn about historic mining practices, environmental stewardship and sustainability. After completing the program, the young scientists receive a Lafarge Junior Geologist Certificate.

New to Canmore is a group called Stargazers. Jenny worked as a docent at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona. Now in Canmore, she was talking about space science with the students coming to the science odyssey event.

The displays in the foyer of the civic centre were only one part of four science odyssey events for the students. Inside the museum there was a scavenger hunt that required students to look at the various geoscience displays to find clues to solve a puzzle.

The Biosphere Institute had information from their Wildsmart program. I talked to Nick De Ruyter at length about safe camping and hiking in the mountains. I wrote about the Wildsmart bear program in a blog last year.

I have been keeping up with my friends at the Canada-Wide Science Fair this week as they take in some very exciting science odyssey opportunities in Ottawa. They got the chance to do ecology and conservation biology as part of the Carleton University Lab Tours. They spent time at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Several of the government ministers dropped in to chat with the finalists at their projects, an opportunity that comes only when the Canada-Wide is held walking distance of parliament.

I hope before this week is over, you too will take the opportunity to find science odyssey events in your area. This week they are being held across the entire country.

Here is a link to find an activity near you.

Other links of interest:
          Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre
          Canmore Cave Tours
          Canadian Rockies Earth Science Resource Centre
          Earth Science for Society
          Parks Canada – Burgess Shale
          Biosphere Institute

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Science Odyssey - celebrating science in Canada

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