Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Behind the Scenes at Science North

When I first stumbled upon the Science Communication program, one of the first things that intrigued me was the relationship that this program had with Science North. I loved visiting science centres, though it had been 20 years since I had been to Sudbury’s. When I was here on vacation in 1998, my family visited Sudbury, though the only thing I remembered about Science North was that they had a beaver that I was able to pet! 
Me (left) with my two sisters and the beaver at Science North.

After I was accepted to the program, and started telling people that I was moving up to Sudbury from southern Ontario, the first question I invariably got was “What’s in Sudbury?” My answer became something like, “The program is awesome, I get to take classes at Science North!” To all of my friends who listened to me describing being at Science North with excitement, let me assure you that it is just as awesome as I imagined it would be, if not better!

Last term, we had our learning theories class at Science North, in which we learned how visitors are likely to interact with exhibits and programs at Science Centres, and began to think about ways of tailoring our science communication skills to various types of learners. This term, I have opted to take the exhibit design class at Science North. In this class, we are learning the process of exhibit design through the development of our own prototype exhibits. The prototype that I am working on with my partner, Lisa, is on gravitational waves. Through this process, we are meeting staff from around Science North who are helping us learn how to develop our ideas into fleshed-out sketches (low fidelity prototypes), thinking about our prototypes from the visitor point of view, learning about signage, being introduced to the shop where technicians are working with us to build a working (high fidelity) prototype, and finally, we will be testing our prototypes in the science centre with visitors over March break. If that sounds like a lot of work, it sure feels like it some days! Overall though, this experience is exciting, and the staff at Science North are helping us stay focused on the big picture!

First day tour at Science North (I'm in the grey cardigan)!
The relationship this program has with Science North is about more than just taking a couple classes there, though. Everyone in our class is encouraged to go to the science centre whenever we can, to explore, to learn from visitors and staff, or just to relax after a long week. I personally like going to visit the butterfly room as a break from the cold Sudbury winter, and everyone in our class has developed a fondness for the porcupine Maple, who has kind of become our unofficial class mascot – we all love going to see him in his tree!

Science North has given us the space we need to grow and flourish in our “scicomm” abilities, showing us both the front and behind-the-scenes of what it takes to run successful science outreach events and be effective science communicators. Staff challenge us to meet the standards of a real-life business, giving us real world experience, while also letting us experiment and be students who are still learning. It is a creative and inspiring environment to be a part of. Even though each of us in the program have our own backgrounds, experiences, and interests, Science North has given each of us something new to discover and explore during our time here in Sudbury.

- Elizabeth Kleisath

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