Chapter 4A: Grande Prairie, Alberta

We’ve finally made it to our first stop in Alberta: Grande Prairie.

The load-in here was in sharp contrast to our Yellowknife situation. To start with, it was much warmer in Grand Prairie (most of the snow was melting) and we could easily wheel in our exhibit and equipment. We have been through an interesting winter with abnormally warm to colder than normal temperatures. But for the most part, I think we’ve been fairly lucky – we haven’t had to face any crazy snow storms.

Our venue here was Charles Spencer High School, which actually only opened 2 years ago. As usual, we set up in their gymnasium and prepared ourselves for the influx of students that would come through our exhibit. There were three interactions here that stood out most to me:

1) Despite the exhibit focusing on physics and astronomy, the environment we create is really an open space to talk about anything and everything. I had a great conversation with a student who was more keen on biology (although we were initially talking about black holes). He shared with me the fact that he had a rare heart condition and had undergone multiple surgeries growing up. However, it was through those experiences that he learned more about the human body which inspired his goal of becoming a cardiologist. We then switched topics and talked about education and the importance of hands-on or experiential learning. Although our conversation was cut short by the bell, he told me he’d be back the next day and sure enough he ended up coming to my presentation.

My awesome audience!

2) The audience for my presentation was rather interesting because I had a mix of grade 5 and 9 students. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because of this age gap and I was worried about the level of engagement, since some of the topics that are presented are not as relevant to a younger audience. So it was a nice surprise when I saw how energetic the students (especially the grade 5s) were when I asked them share with me their ideas. In fact, I think the enthusiasm of fifth graders inspired some of the ninth graders to speak up and share their thoughts which was really amazing to see. Here are some of their ideas:

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3) One of my favourite moments was hearing how surprised the vice principal was to see students that were usually hard to engage with, interacting with our exhibit for a long period of time. They were especially drawn by our demos and the mystery tube. It goes to show you that having facilitators and hands-on demonstrations make all the difference. Science is fun and can be presented in a way to draw in people with different interests and intelligences. I can only hope that educators are inspired by what we’re doing and will take the initiative to change or at least experiment with how they teach in order to engage as many students as possible.

Students having fun at our participation counter

Also, who knew Grande Prairie had such an awesome climbing community? Nick, Denis and I entered our first bouldering competition which was a blast. Thanks to the Grande Prairie Regional College Peak Climbing Gym for encouraging us recreational climbers to participate!

All smiles after hours of bouldering!

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