Speak Up

It seems that conferences always push me to write a post. I’m curious how to bottle that inspiration for the future.

I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering on a conference planning committee for local museum educators. I love it, but it is a lot of work.

Emotional work. As a very empathetic person a conference can be very challenging, and as an organizer I feel that each attendee is a friend I want to make sure enjoys themselves.

This year our theme centred around change and space making. It’s one of my favourite topics and naively, I thought making space for this conference to happen was enough.

It wasn’t. I wasn’t prepared to also engage in the change making the whole day. I did a disservice to myself and my community. This doesn’t negate the things that went amazingly well, but I know I can do better.

I didn’t introduce myself to new people nearly enough. I was focused too inwardly.

I only snuck into one session, one on diversity. I sunk back. I didn’t speak up when white voices were centred. The silence of a room weighed heavy and pushed work onto POC. I didn’t even notice a slur was used. The immediacy of my response was missing and I am frustrated with myself.

I will do better because I expect it. I am capable of it. I am responsible enough to speak up.

Why is this relevant on a science communication blog? We need to do more work. I was not alone in that room. How many people just won’t come back? How many go home feeling betrayed? How many continue bad behaviour? Where will those ripples end?

Don’t worry, this will be a big conversation, and a wave is coming.

Speak up.

Hosting a drink, talk, learn party!

If it wasn’t clear already, I am a nerd both at work and in my downtime. So, when the idea of drink, talk, learn parties came my way, I knew I had to plan one.

The point of one of these parties is to learn, share, have fun, and enjoy the evening. I wanted it to be super inviting and low pressure while still making some structure. So, here’s what I did:

  • A few weeks out, invited people and laid out the plan. We used Google slides so transitions were nice and smooth, this worked well.
  • Lots of reminders and nudges along the way
  • Each person had 3-5 minutes, and anyone who didn’t want to present had to judge
  • There was one overall favourite that everyone voted on, but the other prizes and categories were selected by the judges
  • I had lots of prizes, snacks and beverages, and we just set up in my living room
  • Have a fairly strict start time and tell people it’s strict!

It was a lot of fun. We had talks on conspiracies, chemistry of smells, Kant, history of PowerPoint, and the Vancouver housing crisis.

If you do this, plan to do the first talk and help with tech. After about 5 talks, take a break. Have a timer visible to the speakers!

This was a great way to introduce people who hadn’t met before and it really got the conversation going afterwards. I would definitely do another!

Is this something you might do in the future? I want to hear from you!

Crying while presenting: An exercise in connection

This year has been a very interesting one. I have had the incredible privilege of travelling, camping, and attending a few conferences through work and vacations this year. I have met incredible people and have had the pleasure of being invited to speak.

In the past week, I attended the British Columbia Museum Association conference. It was excellent. We discussed change, repatriation, First Nations people, language and more. I was invited with my colleagues to talk about environmental education and inclusivity in volunteer programs. This thanksgiving weekend I feel totally thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

But there was a bit of a cloud. During my presentation, my emotions broke through my skin. I cried. My colleagues jumped up to help me but I pushed through and explained what was happening. I got through but I haven’t yet unpacked what happened to me. Crying while giving a presentation to your peers is not easy.

My emotions have always sat directly under my skin. I have very little ability to stop an emotion from entering a situation. I have lived with depression and anxiety and it is tough. It is tough as a science minded lady to be scared of your own feelings. It is tough to know your irrational fears and misguided emotion can affect every part of you.

In this conference, we dealt with very real issues. I met wonderful people who resonate with me. I felt the feelings of many situations that I had the pleasure of hearing. So, when it was my turn to speak, it was hard to hide how frustrated I’ve been with feeling unsupported. I cried at thinking how people are dismissed because we don’t think they are competent enough to help us. I am devastated at the state of the world and how defeated we all feel.

I cried.

But it was worth it. Sometimes I forget that our emotions resonate with others. Two wonderful humans shared their equally emotional stories with me.

I still cry. I will always cry. I will always be willing to let my emotions push through my skin.

Though this does not fit into my usual science communication posts, I think it is important. Don’t filter your feelings. Emotion is what connects us. Even though I know that I feel emotions disproportionately to the situation, I still will enjoy that I feel. And I am happy to share, and to be shared with.

Home from #MuseumCamp and what can we do next?

Photo by @MuseumofImpact

A week ago (exactly), the experience at MuseumCamp wrapped up. Camp was an exhausting, inspiring, fulfilling experience with over 100 exuberant, intense, and wonderful people. Days were filled with challenging questions, activities, food, and sleepovers. I talked about my experiences with science communication, and listened to those in arts education, social justice, and myriad more fields. I felt so full with friendships, strangers, laughter, and mutual respect. I pushed my anxiety to the edge, swam, walked over 50km, and spent time by myself.

I honestly enjoyed my experience so much.

But in the same breath, this refreshed and renewed attitude was shattered so quickly by the events in Charlottesville. There are so many amazing people writing about what allies can do, how we can publicly denounce these actions and groups, and help to stop this spread of hate. I feel that a lot of this work is being done by folks on the front line so I encourage you to read their work and make sure their effort is well recognized.

I think that the best way I can contribute to the conversation is through the lens of my passion – science communication. Let’s get honest about it. Even though science is touted as neutral and fair, it is political. It isn’t fair. It is unjust. Scientific issues like climate change and disease affect different populations disproportionately. Science gets twisted to “support” false narratives and hate. Science has historically been for white, middle-class, cis-gendered men, and has often muted the voices that are not classically educated.

I love science. I truly think it is for everybody, but to say we are already there is ignoring the huge issues we are facing. No issue can be solved on its own, and no matter how strong you are, you can’t fix a problem on your own.

So what do we do?

  • Think about access vs. availability. We might put our work out there, but is it truly accessible? Make space for yourself to work on this.
  • Step up to speak about science – your science, the science of others, and why science is for everyone.
  • Listen to others when they speak. Listen to understand and not to respond.
  • Raise the voices of others, especially those who might not get a chance to speak. If an idea is passed over, use a repeater technique “I think that when NAME said STATEMENT, it was important and we should revisit it.”
  • Look at the people we represent. Make an effort to mirror all people in the people who communicate science. Ages, backgrounds, abilities, sizes, (a)genders, orientations, personalities.
  • Question everything. Always.
  • Call out racist, hateful, and harmful behaviors, actions, and words.
  • Take time for self-care, enjoyment, and remind yourself of the positivity that does exist in this world. Keep in touch with people, like those pictured, who inspire you to keep moving forward.


Just a few sleeps until MuseumCamp!

I had a very meaningful experience in the Royal Tyrell Museum as a child. I had the good fortune of getting to sleep in the exhibits, under the Pleisiosaur if I remember correctly. This solidified my love of museums, dead things, and being a full-on weirdo. I couldn’t find a photo of that experience, so please enjoy this photo of my and my cousins in a geological formation in Dinosaur Provincial Park (right near the Tyrell).

Well I am very excited to report that I have the good fortune to attend MuseumCamp in California starting on Wednesday. I am bracing for a challenging, exciting, friend-making, and inspiring few days of projects and sleeping on a museum floor (again!). For the past few years, I’ve been really inspired by Nina Simon, the powerhouse in charge of MuseumCamp and Santa Cruz MAH. Her writing has helped me think critically about what a museum can do for people, how I can better facilitate changes, and keep momentum pushing forward.

The theme this year’s camp is Changemakers. I’m going to spend some time thinking about what change means in a science context. Does this mean changing at our organization? How we run our museum? Inspiring others to make changes? Changing perceptions around what it means to be a scientist? Change is something I am extremely passionate about. I get antsy when things are the same for too long. I am a constant questioner. Just because we’ve done something forever isn’t a good enough reason to keep doing it.

I feel like this experience will give me more questions than answers, but I look forward to it.

How do you facilitate, make space for, or create change where you are?