Archive for the ‘outreach’ Category

An Award

Today I received an Outreach Award for my efforts over  the last two years! It is nice that my work is being recognized, and that people see the value in education and outreach 🙂

The nicer thing was seeing so many people that I worked with and receiving so many warm greetings and hugs.  It’s nice to know so many people are following how I’m doing and that they care so much. It’s nice to feel loved and supported 🙂

Many people told me today that they have been reading my blog – so welcome to all my new readers! Please feel free to leave comments!


I’m a Real Author!

And by “real”, I mean paid!
My first ever paid article was published in the current edition of Canoeroots magazine. It’s a short description of what can be seen in the night sky in the late summer/early fall, geared toward younger children. 

Fig. 1: The actual article in an actual magazine!

I’m very proud, and I hope this is the start of many similar projects!

Fun Science Friday

Since I do a lot of outreach, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the activities we do in classes. These can easily be done at home, and could be fun on a rainy day.
Make Your Own Impact Craters!
A fun, and very messy (so, FUN!) experiment to do is make impact craters! 
– Some sort of wide, shallow bin (tin foil roasting pans or kitty litter pans work great)
– Flour
– Hot chocolate powder
– Sifter
– Various “impactors” (balls of various sizes, clay if you want to change shapes)
– Plastic sheets, garbage bags, or similar
– Paper towels
– Ruler and meter/yard stick if you want to be more scientific
– Put down a large plastic sheet or a view garbage bags/newspapers/whatever (or do it outside!)
– Fill the bin about 1/3-1/2 full of flour
– Using the sifter, put a thin layer of hot chocolate on top
– Choose an impactor
– What happens when the impactor hits? (A hole is made, obviously, but you should also see flour get ejected out of the crater – these are called ejecta rays)
– What happens to the crater if you change things in experiment? You can change things about the impactor (size, shape, mass), how you drop it (height, angle, speed), the material you drop it into (gravel, sand, jell-o, water, ice, etc.) – you can get very creative! Just see where it goes 🙂
If you want to be more scientific, you can go over dependent variables (things you measure as a result of the experiment: depth and width of the crater, length of the ejecta rays) and independent variables (things you change in the experiment: size/shape/mass of impactor, height of drop, type of material, etc.). You can then go over how to set up an experiment: chose ONE dependent variable to measure and ONE independent variable to change – all other independent variables need to stay constant (that way, you know what is causing the change). They can even come up with a hypothesis statement and take measurements.
If you want more information, just email me and I have additional resources that I can send!
Have fun!

Space Camp

This past week, I had the pleasure of running a space camp for 18 8-11 year-old kids. It is the first time we’re offering such a program, and I really wasn’t sure how it would go, but it sounds like they had a lot of fun!
We partnered with the university recreation program, who offer a huge range of summer camps throughout July and August. I approached them last fall about developing a space camp program for them, and they jumped on the chance. They have loads of sports camps, but are always looking to add non-sports camps too. 
So, the kids went on a solar system walk, made their own solar ovens and refracting telescopes, held meteorites, mined cookies, designed and built space landers, and completed a rover mission. 
One thing I learned was that my expectations for what could be done in our time was too high. Usually, when I go to classrooms, I’m supposed to fill up the entire time with activities, slide shows, demos, etc.. In this case, there was a lot of time dedicated to snacks, bathroom breaks, and games to break up the day. Once I realized that, the rest of the days went much better.
I’ll be doing it all over again in a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to it!

Venus Transit

If you are an astronomy buff – or even if you’re not – there is a very cool event happening in the sky today.
The planet Venus will transit directly between the Earth and the Sun, so will appear to travel across the disk of the Sun. It will start on June 5th at 6:04pm Eastern Time and will last for approximately 6 hours. 
The transit of Venus is a rather important astronomical event. It was actually one of the ways that the distance from the Earth to the Sun was initially calculated. At the time, astronomers new very well the relative distances of the planets, but they could not put it into km or miles. But, knowing those distance ratios and being able to accurately time how long it took Venus to transit the Sun, they were able to calculate the true distances between the planets. Transits of Mercury can also be used for this purpose.
I highly recommend trying to check this event out if you can – it’s most likely the last time in your life you’ll be able to see it! The next time it will happen is 2117.
Most observatories, astronomy departments, and amateur astronomy clubs will be hosting events. If you can’t find any, here are some tips on how to safely observe the transit (remember: looking at the Sun is not a good idea!). If it’s cloudy where you are, or you can’t get outside to view it for whatever reason, NASA will be hosting live streaming video of the event.
Here in London (Ontario) – we’ll be hosting an event at the Cronyn Observatory on campus, starting at 5:30pm. We’ll watch the transit until the sun sets, and will then turn our telescopes to other interesting objects in the sky. If you’re in town, I hope to see you there!


Never in a million years would I have ever thought I’d be a producer and co-host of a radio show…but in 10 days that will be a reality!

A few weeks back, a post-doc I work with came to me with an idea for a radio show. He had been involved with one at York University (York Universe, on the internet radio station), but now that he was here at Western, and since we have the largest planetary science group in Canada, he thought it would be fun to start our own show.

So, starting on February 27th, each Monday night at 10pm (Eastern) – directly following York Universe – we will run a 30-minute pre-taped interview show called Western Worlds. Each show will consist of a 20-minute interview with a scientist, engineer, researcher, or educator who is involved in the planetary science community. Following the interview, there will be a 10-minute round-table discussion with 3-4 of our volunteer co-hosts. We’ll also do specials from time to time, when there is something particularly interesting going on in the community (like when the Mars Science Laboratory lands in August, for example).

My favorite part is that I get to bring in the education and outreach perspective to the interviews and round table discussion, which is a much different perspective than everyone else involved in the program.

I hope you tune in!

Grant Success!!

We got news yesterday that a grant that my supervisor and I applied for got funded!!

The money will be used for a new outreach initiative that we came up with last summer. It will include developing new workshops and creating a web-based activity for grade 6, 9, and 12 students (primarily, as those are the grades where space science is part of the curriculum).

I’m so excited! This is the first grant application that I’ve submitted that has been successful. Plus, the group had applied for this grant twice in the past, but hasn’t been successful until now. That makes me feel like I’ve been making an important contribution to the program.

Question, though: only my supervisor’s name is on the grant. Can I still put it on my CV?

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