Bunnies, and spiders, and monkeys, oh my!
On May 13, the community partnerships and engagement team (CPE) at U of T Scarborough made their way to the Toronto Zoo for the Scarborough leg of Science Rendezvous. The annual event is organized by the Toronto Zoo, U of T Scarborough's Office of the Vice-Principal Research and Innovation (OVPRI) and Let's Talk Science, a national charitable organization that aims to get kids involved in STEM.
This year's event featured presentations from a trio of UTSC biology professors including Julie Teichroeb who showed everyone just how monkeys make decisions; Rudy Boonstra who talked all things showshoe hares and cottontail rabbits; and Maydianne Andrade in the “Bees N’ Bugs” section where visitors learned about – and even held – a black widow spider (everyone was protected, of course).
UTSC students were also at the zoo giving demonstrations to kids – and kids at heart – while sharing their knowledge and love of science.
Held annually at various locations across Canada, Science Rendezvous is a free, all-day festival that brings science out of the lab and onto the street with the ultimate goal of improving student enrolment and public involvement in the science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics fields.
Fourth-year biology student Sahil Sarajideen says events like Science Rendezvous are important for the community. “It’s very import to educate – especially younger children - to get them into this field, especially with how rapidly sciences and technology evolves,” he said.
Sabina Jeyasankar, a biology major, said that attending events like this when she was a child sparked her interest in science in the first place and might do the same for the festival’s young guests.
“I remember coming to events like this when I was younger, and they always stuck with me,” she said. “I think children get really inspired. I feel so honoured that I can use what I learn.”
Andrade said it’s important to host events like this on campus to engage community and let everyone know about the work that is being done.
“First of all, it opens the eyes of kids to what they can do. Secondly, it makes clear to the community that our research is publicly funded,” said Andrade, who is a world-renowned spider expert.
“We want to show them what we're doing and why it should be important to them. I would love it if we could have an event on campus and just invite the whole community.”
Thanks to the OVPRI, CPE was able to give one hundred community members from Scarborough-based partner organizations tickets to Science Rendezvous, including Scarborough Arts, Pamoja Institute, Heart Beatz, Hong Fook Mental Health Association and Malvern Family Resource Centre.