Literacy week shows children magic of science

UVic, Royal B.C. Museum among those hosting events for Science Literacy Week

Science Literacy Week founder Jesse Hildebrand

When Jesse Hildebrand was five or six years old, receiving an Oxford First Encyclopedia as a present brought joy to his young heart.

Flipping through the book and seeing the scientific photos that illustrated astronomy, chemistry and other sciences excited him and sparked a life-long passion for science.

From there, Hildebrand’s love of science spilled over into other parts of his life. He loved reading and going to the library, watching Crocodile Hunter with the late Steve Irwin, playing with dinosaurs, rocks and gems, and going into his backyard to count how many different types of species insects he could find.

Today, Hildebrand is just as fascinated by science as he was when he was a child. He recently graduated from post-secondary with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

“I was a tremendous nerd from birth. … You look through a telescope and you see back in time at stars that were there a million years ago. You look into a microscope and see a million organisms,” he said, adding space and animals are his passions.

“Space I enjoy because it’s a humble way to see our place in the universe to know the scale and size of the universe around us.”

After graduating, Hildebrand noticed local libraries often showcased the latest bestsellers such as The Hunger Games or Twilight, but rarely showcased books about science.

This was the catalyst for Hildebrand to start Science Literacy Week in Toronto and Mississauga three years ago, during which a few local groups, such as the library, aquarium and museum, put on events to encourage kids to become interested in science again.

Since then, Science Literacy Week has grown into a nation-wide celebration of science with more than 60 cities around the country participating, and more than 160 organizations putting on events from Sept. 19 to 25.

This year, there are a number of events planned at the Greater Victoria Public Library, the University of Victoria, the Royal B.C. Museum, the Victoria Bug Zoo and the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

“I hope they’re going to take away that science is exciting, fun and accessible to everyone. I think the prevailing attitude is that science is for people in university or professional scientists, and doesn’t hold much interest to the greater public,” Hildebrand said.

“I think the week and activities can help change that attitude and showcase how tremendously exciting and magical it is.”

Local events include a Physics and Astronomy Public Tour at the University of Victoria’s Bob Wright Centre, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 24.

Enjoy a daytime tour of the facilities and visit the largest telescope on any Canadian university campus.

Hold a real shooting star that crash landed in Arizona 50,000 years ago and if the sun is shining, take in the solar telescopes on the roof to safely look for sunspots and solar flares.

Additional activities planned around the region include Surprising Science, where kids can mingle with staff and community members stationed around galleries is at the Royal B.C. Museum, a DNA barcoding class, which teaches kids how to genetically identify the world around them is at Victoria Makerspace, and Science Storytime for Preschoolers, where three to five-year-olds can listen to stories and participate in activities that teach the scientific concepts behind them at the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Central Branch.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.scienceliteracy.ca.