New Education and Outreach coordinator for IYA in Canada

By Julie Bolduc-Duval

I was recently hired as the part-time education and outreach coordinator for IYA in Canada . This position, funded through a generous grant from the NSERC PromoScience program, is coordinated by CASCA, in partnership with the two amateur associations: RASC and FAAQ (Quebec). For the last few months, I’ve been busy learning about all the wonderful activities and resources the Canadian astronomical community has developed over the years, and especially during 2009.  The goal of my position is to work on the legacy of IYA, making sure the momentum doesn’t disappear as we change the calendar year, with a special emphasis on reaching youth and underserved audiences (Aboriginal, inner-city youth…). There is no doubt in my mind that the professional astronomers have a very important role to play in this endeavour:  in the eyes of the public, YOU are the astronomical reference!

Many of you have participated before in outreach activities, and you’ve probably seen how amazed people are when they look through a telescope, or learn something incredible about the Universe. Space has always been a very popular subject with the general public, especially with kids.  On the other hand, while astronomers are getting into very specialised fields of research, the general population still barely knows the difference between our solar system and our galaxy. We need to narrow that gap of knowledge and to do so, we obviously need to bring the general knowledge higher (and not bring the astronomers’ knowledge down!).

I know you are all extremely busy with your work. And maybe some of you would like to do more outreach but don’t really know how or what to do. From what I’ve seen while working with astronomers, you are all passionate about what you do. And that’s the most important thing when it comes to doing outreach: sharing your passion with the public! For the next two years, I’ll be working at creating networks within the astronomical community (professional, amateur, science centres...) and sharing the resources we have with the general public. I’ll need your expertise and hopefully, I can help you do exciting outreach activities and projects. You will most likely hear from me again as different projects become more concrete and your help is required. In the meantime, if you have any questions, things you’d like to share, projects in mind, or ways you would like to contribute to the outreach efforts in Canada , do not hesitate to contact me at jbolducduval@cegepth.qc.ca. I’d be happy to work with you in making astronomy a more accessible science for everyone!Pour les francophones parmi vous, vous pouvez évidemment m’écrire en français!