The Honourable Kirsty Duncan has a big love of science and people. Over her life she has worked to prepare the world for flu epidemics and climate change, helped to provide food, shelter, and education for Toronto youth, and has been a professor of health studies at the University of Toronto.
Today, she is Canada's Minister of Science, as well as the Minister of Sport and Persons With Disabilities. That's why we jumped at the chance to interview her. A politician who loves science, sports, kids, and equality is our kind of politician! Read on to find out what science means to her, and how the government is working to make science more accessible and engaging to students everywhere. We may have also found out what her favourite magazine was as a kid...
We spoke with the Minister after she made an appearance at a Google Hangout at the Toronto Zoo. Always on the job!
OWLconnected: Can you tell us more about the #ScienceAroundMe campaign and the Citizen Science Portal?
Kirsty Duncan: I’m a proud former OWL reader. And I really want to get out to young people that science is all around us, and that they can get involved in science experiments happening in their community with their friends and family. We have a very special website, our Citizen Science Portal, where kids can find different projects to participate in—from counting butterflies to listening to frogs to locating bat colonies. Just visit the website and click on one of the many activities to find out how to participate!
And we hope afterwards—if their parents are on social media—parents will share what they did with the hashtag #ScienceAroundMe. It’s an online conversation about how Canadians are participating in the science in their communities. And they can also search for posts with that hashtag to learn what other people are doing and hopefully get more ideas. We want to show everyone what is possible in their communities and that science is everywhere.
OC: What kinds of citizen science projects have you done? Any favourites?
KD: I absolutely love frogs. I have ever since I was a little girl. I used to go out to the lake or swamps just to see what I could pick up. And recently, I got to participate in a Google Hangout about the Frog Watch Project. You can check out that video on the Exploring By the Seat of Your Pants YouTube page!
And before my life in politics, I was a scientist. I led an expedition, 500 miles from the North Pole, to search for the cause of the 1918 Spanish Flu. I made it my mission then—and it’s my mission now—to tell people about the importance of science and research in their lives. And I think that people seeing and understanding science in the world around them is really important, and it will help them make better decisions about themselves, their families, and their communities.
OC: Why is science so important?
KD: Science is everywhere! It’s in your home, it’s in your backyard, and it’s in your community. And science has led to some of the greatest inventions of our modern world—whether it’s space travel, the internet, or the smartphones that some of you might be using right now.
Science is also a big part of some very interesting jobs. We like students to know that—whether it’s astronauts, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, or even politicians.
OC: Can you tell us a bit more about your role as Canada’s Minister of Science?
KD: I get to do many fun things in my life as Minister of Science. I get to meet great researchers and scientists from coast to coast to coast. And what I love—one of my favourite things—is that I get to meet future researchers and scientists, like the young students, children, and OWL and chickaDEE fans out there. And what I want them to know is what is possible in their communities. I want them to know that science is everywhere. And what I always tell children is dream your biggest dream! They’re going to become the doctors, engineers, nurses, and the leaders of Canada tomorrow.