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UofGH’s Science Rendezvous connects community and learning

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the University of Guelph-Humber hosted its third annual Science Rendezvous event, as part of the Canada-wide Science Rendezvous – a free, annual festival with over 300 event sites across Canada that showcase innovation in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

Science Rendezvous

Making science accessible

The festivities were run by UofGH student volunteers, and included a wide variety of fun and educational activities, including interactive anatomy and cognitive science stations (such as facial recognition and optical illusions), slime making, crafts and colouring, finger print art, and a CSI crime lab created by Justice Studies students, that allowed visitors to collect clues and solve a crime. The event also included hands-on chemistry demonstrations by Denzil Desouza from Humber College – who also provided festival-goers with a chance to view human cells under the microscope; 3D printing with Kinesiology instructor William Albabish; and Naomi Robson, a Human Anatomy Educator & Scientific Illustrator from the University of Guelph.

Also integral to the event were exhibits from several community partner organizations, arranged by Alison Canning, the Executive Director of Let’s Get Together – a non-profit, community organization that connects parents and youth with resources that provide educational assistance and support student well-being. These exhibits included the North Albion Collegiate Institute Robotics team, the Toronto Public Library, a planetarium courtesy of Astronomy in Action, and an exhibition of science projects from local elementary and high school students as part of Let’s Get Together’s Celebrate Junior Scientists in the Community initiative.

“At Science Rendezvous, we had professionals and students together getting the science message out to the broader community – that science is tangible, it’s not scary, it can even be fun,” says Dr. Laelie Snook, Kinesiology Program instructor. “I’m really proud that we were able to bring tangible science to the broader community.”

Dr. Adam Sandford, Assistant Program Head of Psychology and Co-Chair of Science Rendezvous at UofGH, agrees. “Making science accessible was important for us,” he says. “For example, making slime is much easier than you might first realize, and you can make it at home.”

It was also an event for all ages. “Science Rendezvous accommodated guests from across the life span,” says Dr. Sandford. “We had activities for young children, along with ones for children who might want to work with their siblings and parents and caregivers on tasks that were a little bit trickier.”

Building community through science

UofGH’s Science Rendezvous also provided the backdrop for a much larger impact – with science being the catalyst to bring the community together and encourage learning.

Canning, through her many community connections, helped to arrange buses so that families in the community could attend without barriers of transportation costs. “This event is all about the community supporting each other through learning, education, and family involvement,” says Canning. “Science Rendezvous is about science, but it’s also about parents being involved in their children’s education in a real tangible way, learning with them, and then connecting and inspiring kids to higher education. For those in higher education at UofGH, they’re able to give back and share what they’ve learned. It’s moments like this that keep everyone moving together.”

Science Rendezvous

“We are grateful to have partnered with Alison and Let’s Get Together for this event,” says Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Assistant Program Head of Kinesiology and Co-Chair of Science Rendezvous at UofGH. “Alison played an instrumental role in not only getting the word out to the community, but also having the vision to showcase the amazing science projects from elementary and high school students. She’s passionate about inspiring youth and opening potential opportunities for them, and this Science Rendezvous was the perfect platform. It allowed those students to step into the university setting, and maybe that will spark that interest in them.”

“For families who haven’t had any experience with academia, to open our doors and make it a welcoming and approachable place is really important for outreach, and will help to foster the idea in children and young families who haven’t thought about higher education that this is something that could be in their reach, in their backyard,” agrees Dr. Snook.

UofGH also welcomed school trustee Harpreet Gill, Trustee for Ward 1, Etobicoke North. Gill says events like Science Rendezvous help to increase community awareness and broaden horizons. “It’s important that events like this continue to happen in the community – not only to build that sense of community and connection to what’s around you, but also to broaden perspectives,” says Gill. “If we take a step back and really evaluate what an event like this can do for a community like ours, there are so many benefits and advantages. From mixing and mingling and getting to know your community members, to learning more about what science really looks like and can lead to – it really highlights the community coming together.”

Ryan Marciniak, owner of Astronomy in Action, brought his portable planetarium to Science Rendezvous. He says he jumped at the chance to participate. “For everybody who was part of it, there’s no-one who comes away without a smile on their face. That’s really what it’s about, everybody who comes out has a good time, they learn something new, and they get to feel good about what they’ve done.”

UofGH students get involved

Another key to the event’s success was a team of UofGH student volunteers, who represented all programs at UofGH. “Our student volunteers were absolutely amazing,” says Dr. Coutinho. “They came early, helped to set up, they stayed later, helped to take things down, they were excited, and they had fun.”

“There was a lot of enthusiasm and passion from the many students that were managing the various stations, and it was so great to see them,” says Gill. “I struck up a conversation with many University of Guelph-Humber students that afternoon, and just seeing their passion and wanting to give back to the community with this event was really great.”

Skylar Rego, graduating UofGH Psychology student, has volunteered at Science Rendezvous for the last two years as a Senior Communications Manager. She says she volunteered to build on her experience as a Sr. START Leader, and to help the event grow. “Volunteering at events like this is important for students because it allows them to get involved, and utilize the skills they are learning in class. It also allows students to give back to the community, especially members in surrounding areas which really does feel great, and can make such a huge impact! It is also a lot of fun, and it is CCR certified!”

“Even if you don't want to volunteer, I strongly recommend dropping by for the event to see what it is like,” she continues. “We truly have something for everyone to be involved, and you get to learn about science in ways you may not have even thought of. Even though I am graduating, I’m looking forward to seeing the event grow.” 

Dr. Coutinho says that Science Rendezvous gives students the opportunity to practice professional life skills. “In this opportunity, students are working side-by-side, and they are also networking with those that are coming in to view what it is we’re doing here. It’s a wonderful way for them to practice their skills in communicating and interacting with the public, and people of all ages,” she says.

Science Rendezvous

“This year’s Science Rendezvous event at the University of Guelph-Humber was a great success,” says UofGH Vice-Provost Dr. John Walsh. “Real-world learning is a cornerstone of our philosophy at UofGH, and through this event we were able to bring science and the community together to make science accessible and inspire learning. I would like to extend our sincere thanks to all who supported this event and helped to make it so successful.”

Science Rendezvous takes place on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend each year. Canning says she is looking forward to helping with next year’s Science Rendezvous event at UofGH on May 9, 2020. “We’re looking forward to growing this,” she says. “Next year we hope we will have more projects, more students, and more parents sharing their stories. It’s not always easy to do that, and not everyone knows how, so by sharing stories, and empowering others, and seeing what’s possible, that’s how we will create that positive change in our community and in some cases, break cycles of poverty.”

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