They blinded me with Science Sunday!

As a parent, you try so hard. You do everything you can to keep your kids from getting too interested in the world around them. To raise them to be uncurious blobs is tough work that requires vigilance and dedication if you’re going to keep on top of a child’s natural sense of wonder. And if you slip up for even a second, all your hard work goes straight out the window and the next thing you know, they’re telling you they want to be scientists when they grow up. SCIENTISTS.

It pretty well goes without saying that it’s generally your best strategy to stay away from the University of Alberta campus. With their commitment to community engagement and obvious inclination toward pushing for people to get an education beyond what’s mandated by law, they’re a dangerous lot around there at the best of times, but today (Sunday, March 6) is worse – they’ve got Science Sunday from noon to around 4 pm. 

“It’s never too early to plant that seed of lifelong learning and higher education. You don’t have to wait until high school to educate kids about the options that are available to them,” says Jennifer Kuchta from University of Alberta Museums. “The idea is an introduction to the wonders of science and natural history and research and the university and to show them that there are career possibilities in these various fields and that science is fun!”

Are you getting a feel for what up you’re up against? Science Sunday is a concerted effort on the part of actual scientists from the university’s departments of Biological Science and Earth Science, and the curators of their Paleontology and Mineralogy/Petrology Museums to pique your children’s curiosity. Admission is on a donation/pay what you will basis, and once you’re in, there’s going to be, like, 80 student volunteers running around, helping your kids make fossils and examine animal tracks and meteorite impact craters and all kinds of other activities that are … are you sitting down? Highly participatory.

“This is definitely a hands-on activity for the whole afternoon,” says Kuchta. “There’s sixteen different activities this year, and yeah, people are so used to hearing at museums and art galleries, ‘Please don’t touch! Please don’t touch!’ so in this instance we encourage touching because that gives a so much different, visceral, tactile experience.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Hey, what’s the harm in showing the kids a little science on a wintry Sunday afternoon,’ right? You think you’ll just find a little something for them to do to pass the time, and then you’ll just take ‘em home and that’ll be that, your kids will forget all about science and go back to being blobs. Well, friend, before you start loading them into the car, you had better consider this last cautionary tale from Kuchta, because an interest in science is not the sort of toothpaste that goes back into the tube.

“One of the curators who also volunteers his time is well known and loved by basically everyone in Alberta. It’s John Acorn, known as ‘The Nature Nut’. Talking to him and hearing his story about how he’s loved bugs and nature since he was a little boy and now here he is, a scientist and a researcher, and I think it’s really encouraging for kids to know that you can develop and nurture your passion into a career path for yourself.”

Science Sunday runs today from noon to 4 pm in the Earth Sciences Building on the U of A Campus (map here). For more information, call 780.492.5834.