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    Arts activities can provoke empathy and inspire youth action on UN global goals

    For young people seeking to engage with the world’s most critical challenges, the UN Sustainable Development Goals can serve as an entry point. The arts open up possibilities to take action.

    Dandelions in front of Botterell Hall
    ‘The Sad and Cheerful Story of a Certain Dandelion’ was a theatre project in Poland that saw students create a script encouraging audiences to protect the local species.

    Young people have a vital role to play in addressing global crises today. Around the world, arts education is helping youth understand the issues, connect with them emotionally and take action.

    The Conversation logoThe United Nations Sustainable Development Goals identify some of the most critical challenges confronting humanity. These include taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies (Goal 16), and conserving life on land (Goal 15).

    Together these goals indicate a path toward a healthy future for our communities and planet. My research investigates how arts education is advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Here are some examples.

    Climate action

    Visual, performing and narrative arts are moving beyond just raising awareness about climate change. Diego Galafassi, who researches the role of the arts in sustainability, argues the arts can foster the disposition and imagination required to address the climate crisis. Arts activities can provoke positive emotions such as hope, responsibility, care and solidarity that, in turn, inspire resilience and climate action.

    In an international survey of arts educators that I am undertaking, a respondent from Québec described a project with high school students. Building on a vibrant tradition of climate change artwork, the young artists created publicly displayed sculptures.

    First, students informed themselves about the various issues associated with the climate emergency (extreme weather, air pollution, melting ice, forest fires and so on). Next, each student chose an issue that was personally meaningful and created a sculpture to address it. Finally, the students identified a location to exhibit their work for maximum impact, taking into consideration the people most affected and those who were causing the problem.

    The students exercised the potential of art to leverage visual codes for communicating, engaging and provoking action.

    Eco-anxiety is a very real source of distress for young people today. As a key coping strategy, medical professionals recommend taking action to understand and address environmental concerns. As this example illustrates, the arts can serve as a venue for young people to actively engage with the issues.

    Just and peaceful societies

    The arts promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies through a variety of mechanisms. Arts activities can frame a relationship or issue in ways that strengthen empathy and open minds to new perspectives and possibilities for change.

    The arts can facilitate dialogue between opposing groups, rebuild empathy and trust in communities ravaged by conflict and promote tolerance and acceptance of ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity which find expression in varied arts genres.

    My research team interviewed a theatre and music teacher in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At a time of intense conflict, he formed a youth choir to promote peace. The choir addressed politicians through a program of song and dance entitled Blessed are the Princes of Peace. The choir performed at the seat of the National Assembly in Kinshasa and at peace-building events.

    The teacher told us collaborating for this cause developed a powerful sense of solidarity amongst the performers. They were drawn together by their mutual commitment. The experience enabled them to see the potential of artistic work for drawing and focusing attention on crucial societal issues.

    Life on land

    The arts can also contribute to biodiversity conservation. Artists tell stories of how biodiversity contributes to our quality of life and how human activities impact the loss of species. They envision possibilities for more harmonious human-nature interactions.

    In the survey of arts educators, a teacher at a school in Poland described an elaborate theatre project with primary students. The Sad and Cheerful Story of a Certain Dandelion featured a local plant species, Taraxacum Pieninicum, in danger of extinction. Students learned about the plant, created a script explaining threats to the species’ survival and encouraged audiences to take action to protect it.

    The show was performed with different casts across the country between 2010 and 2019. The teacher reported students learned theatrical skills and the importance of taking care of the natural environment. The project also gave the children the chance to powerfully experience how they can advocate through art.

    For young people seeking to engage with the world’s most critical challenges, the UN Sustainable Development Goals can serve as an entry point. The arts open up possibilities to take action.The Conversation


    Benjamin Bolden, Associate Professor; UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning, Queen's University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston returns

    Queen’s researchers and community partners will showcase their science and outreach activities at the family-oriented event on May 13.

    [Photo of a student learning about static electricity]

    Each year in mid-May, Queen’s researchers and students take over the Leon’s Centre and The Tragically Hip Way in Downtown Kingston for a full day of science outreach activities featuring topics in biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, engineering, health, and many others. For over a decade, thousands of children, youth and their families have interacted with the displays and queried the researchers to learn about their work.

    This year, Science Rendezvous returns to Kingston on May 13. The festival, which is free of charge, will be the biggest one yet, with over 400 volunteers spread across 50 booths featuring research discoveries and interactive activities.

    "We are proud to see so many of our researchers, students and community partners invested in sharing knowledge with young people and their families," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Events like Science Rendezvous help us translate the impact of Queen’s research and inspire the next generation of scientists."

    The theme of this year’s event is CREATE, showcasing how discoveries are made and new knowledge is built in different research settings, from labs to cities, from underground to outer space, from forests to hospitals.

    Highlights of the day include Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit (QCPU) showcasing a mini CT-scanner which will allow visitors to view real-time scans of QCPU’s mascot, Dr. Squeak. Queen’s Ingenuity Labs will introduce audiences to their robot dogs, Boston Dynamics Spot and Unitree Go 1, who allow engineers to safely and effectively navigate challenging terrain.

    New to Science Rendezvous this year is Kingston Fire and Rescue, who will demonstrate hydraulics and water supply with a fire hydrant and truck, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, in partnership with Queen’s Art Conservation Program, who will introduce the tools and techniques used by museum professionals to study and preserve artwork and heritage objects.

    Also, for the first time, Science Rendezvous Kingston will feature a Sensory Friendly Science Zone designed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, social and emotional mental health needs, and other sensory-related or physical disabilities.

    [Photo of a student looking through a telescope]

    "Our goal is to be increasingly inclusive, ensuring everyone gets the opportunity to experience science and fun," says Queen’s Professor Emerita Lynda Colgan, founder and coordinator of Science Rendezvous Kingston. "We want to show children that scientists come in all colours, genders, and ages, and that anyone can be a scientist if they want to."

    Dr. Colgan highlights how important it is to provide a fully free event in a post-pandemic world where the costs of taking a whole family to a science museum are out of reach for so many people.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of the Canada-wide, not-for-profit initiative Science Rendezvous, the largest one-day science festival in the country, happening in over 30 cities in 10 provinces and two territories. The event is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). On March 8, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, on behalf of Kingston City Council, proclaimed May 13, 2023 to be "Science Rendezvous Kingston Day" in the city.

    Highlights of Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

    • Research Casting International (RCI) is mounting a cast skeleton of Saurophaganax, a large carnivorous Allosaur that lived in North America during the late Jurassic period (about 151 million years ago)
    • A giant, interactive floor map brought by the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition will allow visitors to experience the ocean and waterways with augmented reality
    • A Chemistry Magic Show will be presented by Queen’s Department of Chemistry on the main stage at 10:30 am and 1:45 pm
    • Award-winning Canadian authors will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how authors create STEM books out of cutting-edge science
    • Queen’s Plant Sciences Research Group will share knowledge about flowers, vegetables, grains, and oilseeds

    Visit the website for a full list of booths and for more information on the event, or follow Science Rendezvous Kingston on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).

    Math education, made fun

    Queen’s professor emerita Lynda Colgan receives the 2023 Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award for lifetime devotion to inspiring a love of science and math in youth.

    Dr. Lynda Colgan, professor emerita of mathematics education
    Dr. Lynda Colgan, professor emerita of mathematics education.

    Most parents want their kids to succeed in math classes, but many openly say they are not strong in math themselves and struggle to support their children in doing so. The challenge to improve Canadian youth’s math literacy is, thus, bigger than adapting and improving school curricula: it requires involving families and communities in recognizing the value and relevance of math in our daily lives.

    This has been one of the major goals for Lynda Colgan, professor emerita in the Faculty of Education. For her lifetime achievements in innovation and creativity in mathematics education, she was awarded the 2023 Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award by University of Toronto’s Fields Institute of Research in Mathematical Sciences. The annual award "recognizes an educator in Canada who has demonstrated innovation and excellence in promoting mathematics education at the elementary, secondary, college or university level."

    Dr. Colgan has worked across all levels: over four decades, she taught mathematics within Ontario’s public education system, from elementary to post-secondary. She has also supported curriculum development and teacher education, as well as authored textbooks and curriculum method courses. Beyond formal education, Dr. Colgan has led numerous outreach initiatives, from Family Math courses and math-based television programs to non-fiction books.

    Additionally, in 2011, she launched Science Rendezvous Kingston, an annual free, family-oriented event that hosts Queen’s researchers and community partners to showcase their work in fun, interactive displays, and demonstrations. Since then, Science Rendezvous Kingston has become the largest pop-up science discovery centre in Canada, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The success of the Kingston event led her to accept the role of Executive Director, Education and Development at Science Rendezvous’ national office.

    The Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award acknowledges Dr. Colgan’s efforts to advance mathematics beyond academic practices, creating opportunities to make math more accessible and valued outside the classrooms, and reshaping negative attitudes towards the discipline. But there is also a very personal reason why this award is meaningful. Dr. Colgan was a friend and colleague of Margaret Sinclair, whom she met during their PhD studies at the University of Toronto.

    "Margaret opened one of her early papers with a quote from mathematician and educator Seymour Papert, who used to say we don’t educate children – instead, we create contexts in which they will learn," says Dr. Colgan. "I knew then that Margaret and I were kindred spirits – something that makes this award so intimate and special."

    This September, during The Fields Institute Mathematics Education Forum (MathEd Forum), Dr. Colgan will deliver the 2023 Margaret Sinclair Memorial Award Lecture and share some of her learnings and education journey doing math outside on the football field, making mathemagical art, and revisiting the mathematical ancients in Egypt, India and China.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

    Youth and Queen’s researchers interact at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2022.
    Youth and Queen’s researchers interact at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2022.

    Currently, Dr. Colgan and the team in the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio are busy preparing for the 13th edition of Science Rendezvous Kingston, to be held on May 13 at the Leon’s Centre. This year’s event will host 50 different booths, with displays and activities on topics like robotics, paleontology, chemistry, psychology, geography, biology, geology, art conservation, engineering, health and, of course, mathematics.

    "I am a firm believer in the power of informal education – teaching and learning outside of the walls of the school," states Dr. Colgan. "Science Rendezvous pairs concepts and approaches from inquiry-based classroom learning, museums, science centres and carnivals to create an invitational environment designed to educate, engage, and inspire learners of all ages, especially youth."

    The 2023 event will showcase more Queen’s researchers and teams than ever before, as well as a huge Saurophaganax, a giant floor map celebrating UN’s Ocean Decade (2020-2030), and a Sensory Friendly Science Zone, for kids who want to explore Science Rendezvous in a quieter way. 

    To learn more about Science Rendezvous Kingston, visit the website.

    Graduate research advancing the Sustainable Development Goals

    Doctoral researchers at Queen’s have been awarded $20,000 from Universities Canada to support their innovative research working to improve global health and education.

    [Photos of Kenneth Gyamerah and Erynn Monette]
    Kenneth Gyamerah (Education) and Erynn Monette (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies)

    Kenneth Gyamerah and Erynn Monette have been recognized by Universities Canada and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for their doctoral research that will contribute to advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The IDRC is focused on offering funding, awards, and grants to innovative researchers solving some of the most prominent global issues. In partnering with Universities Canada, they have supported the International Doctoral Research Awards (IDRA) to provide funding of up to $20,000 for students at Canadian universities.

    The IDRA program is intended to strengthen the capacities of emerging researchers, growing the cohort of researchers able to advance high quality research contributing to the SDGs with a focus on the Global South. This year, $480,000 was awarded to 24 doctoral students at 13 Canadian universities. The 2022 program was aimed at supporting research that would address developing issues related to climate-resilient food systems, democratic and inclusive governance, education and science, global health, and sustainable inclusive economies.

    Award Recipients

    Kenneth Gyamerah is a PhD Candidate at Queen’s Faculty of Education. His research examines the role of African Indigenous knowledge systems and pedagogies in decolonizing and transforming the teaching and learning of mathematics and science education in Ghanaian primary schools. The IDRA will support his work with Ghanaian educators to help reimagine and transform these subjects with the goal of making them more inclusive, relatable, and accessible to diverse learners.

    Erynn Monette is a MD/PhD student at Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. Her research examines how culture influences health care needs and service delivery in rural communities. With a focus on Belize, Erynn’s research uses ethnographic and community-based participatory methods to identify palliative care needs in rural areas and the social and cultural resources that could be used to meet them. The IDRA will help advance this research with the goal of contributing to strengthening community palliative care services in low-income contexts and developing resiliency in the event of future pandemics and public health emergencies.  

    "We are proud that the important work of Queen’s graduate researchers is being recognized on a national level," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "With their focus on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals and improving quality of life for communities around the world, Kenneth and Erynn are putting into practice our institutional vision to solve the world’s most significant and urgent challenges. Congratulations to them on their IDRA achievement."

    Visit Universities Canada to learn more about the recipients of the International Doctoral Research Awards.

    Bringing research into focus

    The annual Art of Research photo contest will continue to showcase how the Queen's research community is advancing the United Nations' SDGs and introduce a new video category to capture research in motion.

    [Collage photo with text: Art of Research Photo Contest]

    Taking us behind the scenes of the lab, fieldwork, and the archives, the Art of Research photo contest brings to life the unseen moments of the research process. This year, the hallmark initiative is returning with a new twist: A new video category that will challenge participants to creatively share their research in 30 seconds or less.

    "Through the Art of Research we have catalogued hundreds of images that illuminate what our researchers experience in the pursuit of new knowledge," says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). "Expanding to video will add another dimension to our storytelling, allowing us to reach and engage new audiences with our research."

    With one video and five photo categories, the contest will once again look at research though lens of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This focus aligns with the mission and vision of the Queen’s Strategy and our participation in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which measure an institution's impact on society, based on their success in delivering on strategies that advance the SDGs. Queen’s ranked in the top 10 globally in both the 2021 and 2022 Impact Rankings.

    Photo submissions will be accepted from Feb. 8 to March 10, 2023.

    Mobilizing research to new audiences

    For the past six years, the Art of Research has been an opportunity for Queen’s researchers to share their work through compelling visuals and engage the public in seeing their research in new ways. Previous contests have received local and national media attention for their role of showcasing the breadth and diversity of research endeavors at Canadian universities. Here at Queen’s, the images are used to support various aspects of research and SDGs storytelling – across websites, social media, and print collateral.

    "It is important that we find creative and accessible ways to promote our research beyond the academy," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "The Art of Research has been an effective tool to demonstrate the impact of our work in addressing the challenges of society at home and around the world. I encourage members of our community to participate!"

    Eligibility and prizes

    The contest is open to Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Research depicted in the submissions must have been completed at Queen’s or while the submitter was affiliated with the university. Five SDG-themed photo categories and one video category will be offered this year. These add up to a total of six prizes of $250 each for the top submission in each category. More information about contest rules can be found on the Research@Queen’s website.

    2023 categories:

    Good health and wellbeing

    Research that advances our understanding and the improvement of human health and supports the wellbeing of all global citizens.

    Inspired by SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), and 3 (Good Health and Well-Being)

    Climate action

    Research that seeks to protect our planet’s natural resources, including water, biodiversity, and climate for future generations.

    Inspired by SDGs 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water), and 15 (Life on Land)

    Creative and sustainable communities

    Research that helps us to understand our past and present to help build resilient, sustainably-focused, and creative communities.

    Inspired by SDGs 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions)

    Partnerships for inclusivity

    Research that promotes just and inclusive societies through partnerships and community-based research.

    Inspired by SDGs 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 10 (Reduced Inequalities)

    Innovation for global impact

    Discovery- and curiosity-based research and innovations that addresses wicked, complex global challenges.

    Inspired by SDGs 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals)

    Research in motion

    A video 30 seconds or less that captures the pursuit of your research in action and shows us behind the scenes of where it takes place, from the lab to the field or the archive.

    The contest closes on March 10. To submit an entry and explore winning images from previous contests, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

    2022: The year in research

    We are celebrating the milestones and accomplishments of Queen’s research community over the past 12 months.

    From January to December, our researchers, students, and staff enjoyed being back to in-person events, celebrating funding for groundbreaking projects, and connecting to our community beyond campus. As we approach the end of year, let’s take time to review some of the highlights from 2022.

    Memorable moments

    As Canada gradually reopened after pandemic shutdowns, we had the chance to once again hold on campus events to celebrate research and innovation. In July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade Vic Fedeli, and other dignitaries came to Queen’s to announce a $1.5 billion investment in an EV battery facility in Eastern Ontario that will create hundreds of jobs and partnership opportunities for the university, and boost Ontario’s economy. The podium party also took the opportunity to interact with Queen’s researchers and students.

    [Group photo of Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Champagne, and Queen's researchers]
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister François-Philippe Champagne meet with Kevin Deluzio, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science, and Queen's researchers at Ingenuity Labs Research Institute.

    In November, Queen's hosted the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. He met with students, senior leadership, and members of the research community. The same week, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) president Ted Hewitt visited the campus to meet with Queen's senior leadership and early career researchers, including scholars in Indigenous and Black Studies research.

    Support for groundbreaking research

    Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) kicked-off 2022 with $24 million in support from Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund to advance research on molecular coatings designed to significantly extend the lifespan of vital metals.

    In August, the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund also announced key support for two research facilities affiliated with Queen’s. Combined, SNOLAB – Canada’s deep clean astroparticle research laboratory – and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) Operations and Statistics Centre were granted $122 million, representing around 20 per cent of the total funding announced to support Canada’s major research infrastructure. Vice-Principal (Research) Nancy Ross travelled 2 km underground to host the announcement, which included Minister Champagne and Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor.

    [Photo of Queen's researchers and government officials travel to SNOLAB]
    Dr. Nancy Ross accompanies Queen's Emeritus Professor and Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, Minister François-Philippe Champagne, local Members of Parliament, and SNOLAB administration on their way to the facility 2 km underground.

    Other funding that will support Queen’s future research include:

    [Art of Research photo Aging with Oasis by Riley Malvern]
    Queen's Art of Research photo contest winner: Aging with Oasis by Riley Malvern, Staff (Health Services and Policy Research Institute), Kingston, Ontario.

    Several Queen’s researchers were also recognized with prestigious awards and prizes. John McGarry (Political Studies) was the 2022 laureate for the Pearson Peace Medal, an award designated by the United Nations Association of Canada to recognize a Canadian who has made outstanding contributions to peace and prosperity around the world.

    Nobel Laureate and Professor Emeritus Arthur McDonald (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) received the inaugural Canadian Association of Physicists Fellowship for lifetime achievement. Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering) was awarded the inaugural NSERC Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research, which recognizes outstanding research that has led to exceptional benefits for Canadian society, the environment, and the economy. Early-career researcher Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh (Chemistry) earned Ontario’s Polanyi Prize for her research advancing innovative computational molecular design techniques.

    Other recognitions included fellowships from of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Faculty members were also appointed or reappointed as Canada Research Chairs, the UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning, and as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Chair of Artificial Intelligence. Queen’s students and postdoctoral fellows received Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships, two of the most prestigious national awards for future researchers. Internally, three researchers received the Queen’s Prizes for Excellence in Research, which are granted to early-career researchers who have demonstrated significant contributions to their fields.

    [Clockwise: Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.]
    Queen's 2022 Vanier Scholars and Banting Fellows [clockwise] Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.

    In the news

    The Gazette published dozens of research profiles and stories that highlight some of the groundbreaking research undertaken by faculty and students. Our community is addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, like climate change, with programs on carbon dioxide conversion technology and sustainable finance.

    Queen’s experts are responding to challenges worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, like health professionals’ mental health struggles, and working to create new technological solutions for human problems, including robots that can improve human mobility. They are also advancing the field of neuromorphic computers and figuring out new ways to manage obesity.

    We continued our partnership with The Conversation Canada, an online news platform that pairs academic experts with experienced journalists to write informed content that can be shared and repurposed by media outlets worldwide. Over spring and fall, Queen’s hosted members of their editorial team for four workshops for researchers and graduate students.

    This year, 69 Queen’s researchers published 76 articles and garnered over 1.7 million reads on The Conversation. Some of our most read articles covered topics like the impacts of housework imbalance in women’s sexual desire, the power of routines, the relationships between eating rhythms and mental health, and the causes for lung damage in COVID-19.

    [Art of Research photo: The Tiniest Tree of Life by Dr. Elahe Alizadeh]
    Queen's Art of Research photo contest winner: The Tiniest Tree of Life by Dr. Elahe Alizadeh, Staff (Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit [QCPU]), Queen's University.

    Mobilizing research

    At Queen’s, we believe inspiring new generations of researchers, gearing research processes towards more equitable and inclusive ones, and bringing together the academy and our community is as important as doing outstanding research. We are proud of our efforts to support Black Excellence in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine/health) and women’s participation and leadership in Engineering.

    In 2022, our annual photo contest, Art of Research, was reimagined to focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and placed a spotlight on the intrinsic connection between research and social impact.

    Our researchers and students have also been working to bring their expertise to the public via outreach events, art installations, short presentations, and connecting with the global community to discuss urgent matters like the crisis in Ukraine – in April, we hosted a panel discussion about the origins and the impact of the conflict featuring experts in political studies and law.

    [Art of Research photo: Polar Bear Denning by Scott Arlidge]
    Queen's Art of Research photo contest winner: Polar Bear Denning by Scott Arlidge, Graduate Student (School of Environmental Studies), Coral Harbour, Nunavut.


    Participate in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

    Each year, the Queen’s research community comes together to provide Kingstonians with a day of interactive and family-friendly science activities. As one of the longest-running and most successful outreach events in Canada, Science Rendezvous Kingston provides an opportunity for our faculty, students, and staff to give back to the community while exercising their ability to communicate with the public. The Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio is now calling out for researchers or groups interested in having a booth in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023. The event will be hosted on May 13 at the Leon’s Centre.

    During the annual event, thousands of visitors have first-hand opportunities to engage with scientists: asking questions, doing experiments, exploring artefacts, and using equipment. All activities are free, thus providing quality exhibits to families for whom costly museums, zoos, nature and environmental programs, and other science-rich experiential opportunities are out of reach.

    From virtual tours of SNOLAB to birding guides, activity booklets, instructional guides, book recommendations and teaching modules, Science Rendezvous Kingston strives to educate, engage, and inspire learners of all ages to become aware of and trust science as well as the people behind it. After a virtual edition in 2021 and a hybrid one in 2022, the initiative is ready to go back to a full in-person event, while maintaining a website with educational resources available year-round.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of Science Odyssey, a national campaign created by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to celebrate Canadian achievements in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

    Welcoming new and exciting experiences

    A limited number of booths are available for 2023. Individuals, labs and departments at Queen’s who would like to be a part of this exciting and impactful public education event are welcome to complete the application form by December 1, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

    Applicants are reminded that the event is family focused. While there is no fee for a booth, it is the responsibility of the booth coordinator to ensure that there are sufficient consumable materials and volunteers for the full day of activities.

    Successful applicants will be advised of their place in the program by January 13, 2023.

    Any questions, contact Lynda Colgan, Coordinator, Science Rendezvous Kingston and Executive Director, Science Rendezvous at Lynda.Colgan@queensu.ca

    Communicating research beyond the academy

    In-person workshops with The Conversation Canada will help Queen’s researchers reach bigger audiences with their expertise.

    [graphic image] Queen's University & The Conversation workshops

    Researchers are experts in their fields and know how society could make use of their expertise to support critical thinking and daily decision making related to a range of topics – from climate change, health, politics, technology, to the economy, and many other topics. But communicating evidence-based knowledge has its challenges: what platform to use? Which aspects of the research are the most interesting to the public? How to address complex issues in a language everyone can understand?

    In two workshops hosted by University Relations, the editorial team of The Conversation Canada will walk researchers through these and other questions. The in-person, hands-on workshops will feature what makes a good article, how to explain your research effectively, and how to work with The Conversation to boost research promotion across mediums.

    The workshops will be held on Thursday, Oct. 20 at Mitchell Hall (see sidebar to learn more). Faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students are welcome to participate. In the afternoon session, there will be a focus on how to promote research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Seats are limited to 40 participants in each session. Refreshments will be provided.

    The Conversation and Queen’s

    The Conversation, an online news platform created in Australia in 2011, pairs academic experts with experienced journalists to write informed content that can be shared and repurposed by media outlets worldwide. Following its success in Australia, regional editions began appearing worldwide and, in 2017, The Conversation Canada launched with support from some of the country’s top universities, including Queen’s, and Canada’s research funding agencies.

    As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media. Almost 270 Queen’s researchers have published 425 articles that have garnered over 8 million views via The Conversation Canada’s website. Through the platform’s Creative Commons Licensing and newswire access, hundreds of major media outlets, including The National Post, CNN, TIME, The Washington Post, The Weather Network, Today’s Parent, and Scientific American, have republished these pieces.

    From cryptocurrencies to how eating rhythms impact our mental health, Queen’s researchers have written on a variety of timely and timeless topics. Some of our most-read articles looked at the physical symptoms caused by pandemic stress, the drama of Haitian children abandoned by UN fathers, the extinction of a bird species, the rising popularity of spirituality without religion, and the negative effects of salting icy roads on aquatic ecosystems.

    The Conversation Canada and Queen’s University Workshops

    Thursday, Oct. 20

    Session 1:
    10 to 11:30 a.m. (Click to register.)

    Session 2 (STEM research):
    2 to 3:30 p.m. (Click to register.)

    Rose Innovation Hub Space,
    Mitchell Hall

    For any questions, contact researchcommunications@queensu.ca

    The Conversation is a powerful tool for community engagement, bolstering the efforts of our researchers to share their expertise and build profile,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “We have seen participation from every faculty, and Queen’s continues to show leadership in contributing to the platform among Canadian peers.”

    The workshops: How to write for The Conversation

    The workshops will be led by Scott White, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, and Nehal El-Hadi, the Science + Technology Editor of The Conversation Canada. The in-person program will highlight the changing media landscape, the role of The Conversation and researchers as credible news sources, and how to craft the perfect pitch. Participants will develop pitch ideas and can receive real-time editorial feedback.

    Queen's marking Science Literacy Week

    Each year, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) celebrates Science Literacy Week, an opportunity to showcase the Canadian research landscape through events and activities for families and children. The theme for Science Literacy Week 2022 is Mathematics. From Sept. 19 to 25, departments across the university will join the festivities through several activities aimed at engaging the public with the wonders of math – from pandemic modelling to geometry adventures.

    Mathematics and infectious diseases

    Queen’s Department of Mathematics will host David Earn (McMaster University) for a public lecture on "Learning from the pandemics of the last seven centuries" on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. The event will take place in the Biosciences Auditorium.

    Dr. Earn has been Chair of the Modelling Consensus Table of the Ontario Science Advisory Table for COVID-19, and modelling from his group has helped guide the governmental response to COVID-19. He is also a recipient of the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society Research Prize and an Elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

    Dr. Earn will examine how historical records allow us to reconstruct patterns of disease spread, in some cases going back hundreds of years. His group at McMaster has been studying these patterns, analyzing data going back as far as 1348. In the lecture, he will discuss insights obtained from mathematical modelling inspired by these data, as well as the opportunities we have to improve our understanding of plague, influenza, COVID-19, and other diseases that cause pandemics.

    The event is free and open to the public. Interested participants are asked to register.

    Resources for the community

    The Department of Mathematics is also partnering with Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) to curate a reading list of titles related to mathematics. The suggestions will include fiction books, as well as general interest and popular science titles. The list will be available from Sept. 18 on the KFPL website.

    On Sept. 20, KFPL will host an online lunch and learn event, “Imagining the Future with Math.” Troy Day, head of the Department of Mathematics and part of the Provincial COVID-19 Modelling Consensus Table, is one of the panelists, accompanied by Dr. Earn. You can register for the event through the KFPL website.

    The Faculty of Education will release a new episode of its Popular Podagogy podcast, which discusses how to combine innovative educational ideas with the everyday life of being a teacher. For the Science Literacy Week special episode, faculty member and host Christ Carlton will interview award-winning author Lindsey Carmichael, who has published several books for children and young adults. She will talk about what science literacy is, why it is important, and what role books play in science literacy.

    Mathematics for kids

    The Queen’s Vice-Principal Research Portfolio, through Science Rendezvous Kingston, will offer an online adventure for kids, available starting Sept. 19. The project, led by Professor Emerita Lynda Colgan and funded by NSERC, includes downloadable puzzles, released daily, that kids can print, colour, and fold into a booklet.

    Award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Peggy Collins has created the characters for the booklet. The adventure features the Time Travelling Tangram Gang, a group of kids who unlock the portal to a time travel machine using tangrams. On their adventures, they meet children from ancient China, Mexico and Egypt who teach them about how mathematics was used during their time and the importance of math to their cultures.

    To access information about this project and to download the puzzles, visit the website.

    The right to read

    To commemorate UNESCO World Literacy Day, we talked to Pamela Beach about literacy education research and how to provide support for children with reading disabilities.

    Boy observes a book shelf with the word "Read".
    "Discovering a new chapter", photo submitted by Goonay Yousefalizadeh to the 2022 Art of Research photo contest.

    It’s been ten years since the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision recognizing reading as an essential human right. However, providing literacy education and access for all children, including those with reading disabilities and disorders like dyslexia, which make it difficult to process text, is a complex goal. Earlier this year, a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) called for changes in how the province approaches literacy education. The report made headlines as it was scrutinized by experts across the country.

    To recognize World Literacy Day (September 8), we spoke to Pamela Beach, a professor in Queen’s Faculty of Education, about the OHRC report and its main findings. Dr. Beach also talked about her research in literacy education and some of the insights around literacy she has gathered from her work with teachers across Ontario.

    What are the highlights of the Ontario Right to Read Inquiry Report?

    This has been a work in progress for several years now. The inquiry heard the experiences and difficulties of many families and individuals with reading disabilities like dyslexia and found that Ontario’s public education system has been unable to consistently support students with dyslexia.

    One of the report’s recommendations I would highlight is the need for screening in the early years.  Screening tools or early assessments can work as a cautionary flag to teachers and educators, signaling that a student might be struggling in a foundational area like phonological and phonemic awareness. This way, educators can start some early interventions to assist students in need. This is already happening in school boards, although inconsistently, across Ontario.

    Pamela Beach
    Pamela Beach


    In my research, I am interested in how elementary teachers learn about literacy and reading instruction. I talk to many teachers about how they integrate this learning into their programs, and I've been fortunate to be in a lot of different classrooms. There are teachers and schools doing an amazing job and already including the recommended screening tools in their practice.

    For example, they are looking at the role of phonemic awareness, that is, the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest sounds in spoken language. Research shows that phonemic awareness is one of the more difficult areas for individuals with dyslexia. And these schools are already using sound assessments to identify students that might be struggling with identifying individual sounds in words, and then working with these students to overcome these difficulties.

    Is it a consensus that, the earlier you start interventions, the easier the process will be?

    Absolutely. Early intervention gives us the best results.

    A lot of the vocabulary that students get is indirect, but they also acquire vocabulary through reading – words that don't come up in our everyday speech but are in our books and other documents. By the time children are in Grade 2 or 3, they are expected to have quite a large vocabulary that they recognize, read, and understand. At that point, anyone who is struggling with basic components of phonemic awareness and letter/sound association is falling behind already.

    What are the main gaps in assisting students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities?

    A general classroom teacher can use good evidence-based instruction to identify reading difficulties and assist students. But some students will still need more intensive intervention to reach their potential, which might include one-on-one work with a special education teacher.

    Again, some schools are really doing wonderful things with the resources they have, including training teachers in and already implementing the Empower Reading program. We need to continue to find ways to best support teachers in this journey.

    A boy reading a book.
    Early intervention is key to help kids who struggle with reading. (Unsplash/ Michał Parzuchowski)

    How do teachers currently seek instruction or training on literacy education?

    Over the last several years I’ve researched teachers’ professional learning as it relates to literacy instruction. I’ve looked at how teachers use multimedia online resources in self-directed learning, with very consistent findings. Teachers are always looking for ways to improve their knowledge by ensuring that they are using evidence-based resources.

    Working with pre-service teachers, I’ve found that they are interested in both theoretical information and practical training. I think both are essential: you need to understand the theory and background information to make decisions in your classroom.

    But also, looking for evidence-based resources can be a struggle because of how research is sometimes presented. We need to continue to mobilize research findings in a way that respects and attracts teachers.

    What are your current research goals?

    My next research project is taking more of an international perspective. I'm looking at alternative approaches to early years education, like Montessori or Reggio Emilia in Italy, and how literacy is integrated into these approaches. Of course, they stem from different languages and that makes a difference, but they've still been adapted to English language contexts, as well as to other languages. There are also interesting alternative programs being used in other countries, like England, China, and Japan, as well as across the Canadian provinces. I want to understand what these different programs are doing, what they have in common, and what materials they are using to support their students in literacy.


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