Monday, May 30, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Josh

Josh - Sudbury & District Health Unit
For their internships many of my classmates went across the province to different cities or across the border to work in Chicago, or even across the ocean to Switzerland. I went across the street. I am completing my internship at the Sudbury & District Health Unit, located just up the road from Science North, as a member of the school health promotion team. It may not be a far off or exotic place, but it has provided me with some amazing opportunities so far and I am very happy with my choice.
I joined the team as they were in the midst of finalizing plans for the Ontario Healthy Schools Coalition 10th Annual Forum. Delegates came from across the province to attend, and there was a great line-up of speakers planned. Everyone had a job to do, and mine was to blog the conference. This was a first for the SDHU and for the OHSC, none of the previous conferences had been blogged about at all. The chance to pioneer the blog for this event meant that all coalition members, even the ones unable to travel to Sudbury for the event, could still benefit from the information presented there. It also meant that I got to meet and spend time with the amazing speakers coming to the conference. The highlight was spending time with Joseph Boyden, the Giller Prize winning author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, and going with him to a local high school where he gave a talk. But to read more about my time at the conference just visit my blog. I spent a good chunk of my first few weeks here proposing it, getting it up and running, and writing those posts. Since the end of the conference I have continued to work on the blog. I have also helped to compile the results of surveys completed by conference attendees. Right now I am working on putting together a proposal for further use of social media in the organization; and specifically for it to be used in youth health promotion.
The school health team also runs an after school program in some local elementary schools called “Can You Feel It?” It involves groups of students from grades 4 to 8 getting together and learning about stress management, as well as other life skills. I had the opportunity to go to a school one day and participate. One of the activities they were doing when I was there was putting together a meal; that means I got to eat! And these kids are really good cooks!
I may not have traveled very far for my internship, but I am having a great time. I feel like I am contributing to the work that the team here is doing, as well as to my community. I hope everyone else is having as much fun, and getting as involved in their organizations, as I am!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Susie

Susie: EcoSpark

For my internship I moved out of Sudbury (it was sad to leave, but made less sad by the fact that I left on a cold day!) and down to Toronto. My internship was at a non-profit organization called EcoSpark (

Now these guys do some amazing work! Ecospark runs a variety of programs in Toronto and surrounding area on environmental science. They reach out to elementary schools, high schools, and communities. I was given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects with the education team.

My very first day on the job was at a teacher workshop run by EcoSpark. The workshop was for teachers to learn about the Changing Currents program. Changing Currents is a program where teachers and an EcoSpark facilitator take their class to a nearby creek to look at benthic macroinvertebrates  and learn about healthy waterways. Even though it was a rainy rainy Saturday the teachers still enjoyed ‘getting their feet wet’ by trying out the oversized hip-waiters, jumping into the creek and examining bugs! It was a great day and start to my internship - I had never been to a teacher workshop, so it was interesting to see how they are run.

Later into my internship, I helped with a day of Changing Currents with grade 9 and 10 science students. I got to jump right in, co-leading the highschool students in their benthic macroinvertebrates analysis. As I watched the rain clouds (and everyone’s stylish rain boots) I enjoyed seeing the students really getting into the activity, trying to catch and identify bugs. From this experience I saw the work and planning that goes into an afternoon outing with students. I also learned a bit about how students view the outdoors and what they understand about the effect of their community on the water.

Another program I was involved with was the Wattwize program - teaching students about lowering electrical energy in their schools. I was able to visit a couple of the schools to see what they were doing and how EcoSpark helps by giving them the tools to understand sustainability. One of the elementary schools we visited are doing a great job! The students on the ecoteam helped to organize monitor-off initiatives as well as a ‘lights out hour‘ every couple of weeks. They are also encouraging the teachers to use only half the lights in the classroom when possible. And little by little the number of teachers taking part is increasing!  

The final, but largest, project I worked on was helping to create a teacher toolkit for the TDSB on solar power. When I started the internship in April, the kit was nearing it’s final stages, so there was lots to do and even more to learn! I used some of what we learned in Sci Com to edit the toolkit (remember your audience!). As well, I created some worksheets for a few of the activities. The amount of work that goes into creating a learning guide for teachers is unbelievable! And I was only there for the final stages of the project! I was very proud to be a part of that and can’t wait to see the finished product.

The journey through Sci Comm has been an amazing experience! Being ‘in the field’ has been constant reinforcement of how much we learned in the past year. I am very excited to head back to Sudbury at the end of June and hear all about everyone else’s experiences!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Jalyn

Jalyn: The Field Museum in Chicago

I work at the very top of the Field Museum's gargantuan building. The first two floors are dedicated to exhibits, and there are a number of subterranean floors for administrative offices and a massive collection of artifacts - which I am going to see in two weeks at a real life "Night at the Museum" event! The third floor of the museum is where the 200+ scientists have their offices and labs, and it looks just like a university history department, complete with big wooden doors on all the offices and corny photocopied Far Side comics taped to the windows. The fourth floor is tucked into the roof of the museum, and that's where exhibitions development is. Most of us work in lofts - which is awesome - because any normal floorspace is set aside for actually constructing the exhibits. So instead of windows we have skylights! We also have windows into the very top of Stanley Field Hall, which is the main hall of the museum around which the rest of the building is centred. On Fridays they invite choirs and bands to play in the hall, and this Friday I got treated to a choir and a big band for a few hours without having to leave my desk!

Right now almost everyone is working on a new permanent exhibition called Restoring Earth, which opens in November. It focuses on conservation and explains what scientists at the museum do around the world, as well as what local people are doing in the Chicagoland community. I'm mainly working on a touchscreen interactive, but since I don't have one particular supervisor I'm free to loan myself out to help on other cool projects (there's a new Egypt hall just getting started!).

I spend my days doing anything from research on a topic for a new exhibit, to testing prototypes with visitors, and everything in between. The "everything in between" parts are a lot of searching for cool stories to tell about the people, places, and things featured in exhibits, and then finding good photos and videos of them to go along with those stories. I most enjoy writing content for the exhibits, but I find getting visitors to test the prototypes is the most interesting part. Designing exhibits is like a crash course in psychology. We always have set questions to ask visitors, to see if we've designed the exhibit well, but it's more often observing the visitor interaction with the exhibit that reveals the most interesting results. I love getting feedback from visitors, and heading back to the drawing board to make the exhibit even better!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Leigha

As part of the science communication program, our students get to complete an eight-week internship. This year, our class has spread out all over the globe, garnering experiences here locally in Sudbury, or in as far-flung places as Geneva, Switzerland.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks for news on our internships and how we are putting our science communication skills to practice!

Leigha: City of Greater Sudbury

I am working with the City of Greater Sudbury's Environmental Planning and Initiatives Department. Currently they are looking to revamp the biodiversity section of the City's website. They want to make it more interactive for visitors, and are looking to include information about the importance of the biodiversity of Greater Sudbury. I have developed a communication strategy to improve the website, and have gone through the current writing and offered suggestions to make it more attractive for the audience. I have been researching and will soon start to compose fact sheets that will be linked to the website about local animals.
This week, I was asked to complete three short articles for the insert mini-magazine that is in the Northern Life Newspaper biannually. It is produced by Earth Care Sudbury and has information for homeowners on different matters relating to the environment. These articles will be in the paper sometime in June.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Science Café - "Stress: Too much, or never enough?"

From Margaret: 
On Wednesday April 27, I had the opportunity to moderate a Science Cafe that was organized by Science North (in partnership with CIHR). The theme of the Science Cafe was one that we can all identify with: stress. We had a stimulating array of researchers on the panel, and a curious and thoughtful audience that was totally engaged the entire night. It was great to see such a casual discussion among the panelists and audience. 
We were able to have such an interesting and diverse discussion partly because the researchers on our panel offered unique perspectives on the topic of stress. They were also really great science communicators! One of our panelists was Dr. TC Tai, from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. He is a professor and researcher at Laurentian University, and he studies the cellular and physiological mechanisms of stress. Our other panelist was Behdin Nowrouzi, a PhD candidate studying occupational stress at the School of Rural and Northern Health at Laurentian University. 

These two researchers gave us insight into how they view and study stress, which opened the floor to an interesting discussion. We talked about the chronic effects of stress and the importance of being in control of your stress. It was nice to see that people were interested in understanding why and how they experience stress. We also discussed the difference between positive and negative stressors, and some of the issues and solutions that revolve around stress and managing stress in the workplace.

Margaret moderates the science café, and discusses stress with panelists Dr. Tai and Behdin Nowrouzi.
Leigha and Josh were in the audience, showing support and enjoying the discussion.
Moderating this event was a rich experience for me in many ways. It was an excellent way of applying the skills I had learned in our SciComm program, particularly our Live Programming class. It was also a rich experience because I got to watch and listen to real scientists communicate to a general audience. The two panelists were great presenters - they were engaging, personal, funny - and it really made a difference in the quality of the discussion at the event.

I'm a huge fan of Science Cafes. They are a hip way of connecting researchers with the public. The environment, which in our case that night was the SRO Nightclub Lounge, was casual. People were eating and drinking. The topic of the event - stress - was one that everyone can connect to. We all experience stress. People were not only asking questions, but expressing opinions.

It was great to be a part of, and I encourage current and future Scommies to try it at some point!