Thursday, 25 August 2011

Edinburgh - Day 2 - part 2

It's like stepping into another dimension when entering the yurt at Edinburgh Book festival, conversations go off on an entirely different tangent to the real world happening outside…

"Do you want the fish tank?" ask the helpful staff at the ediburgh book festival.

"Well, only if you have one. I can make do with the book, the clock, I can just explain the fishtank without a demonstration and I've always got my rubber duck". Said Christiane Dorion in her French Canadian lilt. You wouldn't imagine this is the type of thing you might hear from a teacher/doctor/environmentalist/WWF consultant and all round science expert!

But Christiane who left her native Quebec to study a phd in the UK over 20 years ago and stayed, is in fact referring to the visual aids for her schools events. An impressive CV you must admit, and now author can also be added to her list of many talents. She is the writer of the hugely successful series of pop-up science books, How the Weather Works and Blue Peter Award nominee, How the World Works.

Each page is bursting with interactive facts about the universe we live in and the science that surrounds us here on earth everyday.

So… as a class of primary 4 children file into the RBS imagination theatre ready to absorb the knowledge Christiane is eager to pass on.

You could say it is a lot to cover in one hour… starting with the big bang, how the universe was created, our solar system, where weather comes from, the water cycle, what are fossil fuels and even right through to what the future holds for humans on earth. Although some of the children believe we will need to move to another planet entirely, which is not entirely out of the question, she adds.

Christiane is impressed with the huge amount of science knowledge the children already have, even before she has a chance to explain or show her experiments, hands shoot into the air to tell her exactly what all the names of the planets are.

So, you may wonder why the clock and the rubber duck... well... using the 24 hour clock to simulate the existence of the earth until present day, we all learned that the dinosaurs arrived at 23:40, and we humans only arrived at 23:59:46. And as for the duck..? Well, did you know that scientists discovered how the currents of the worlds oceans worked by a shipwreck of plastic toys that spilled it's cargo into the sea and various toys washed up on shores all over the world, including Scotland!

As Christiane prepares herself for the onslaught of questions which range from... 'how did the dinosaurs die?' through to… 'are we alone in the universe?', and as a scientist, she is open to all theories and is happy for the children to come up with their own explanations, but also reminds them that according to current research what she has written in her book is what we believe to be best explanation.

But what facinates Christiane and the message she is keen to get across is the fact that everything on earth moves in cycles. Everything has a life cycle, humans, animals, plants... even the water we drink, the air we breathe and the clothes we wear.

As Christiane concludes her presentation, she is happy to point out the positive message to take from doing events like this, is that children even as young as 8 years old are aware of the changes we need to make to save the fragile environment we live in, and are taking steps towards providing themselves with a sustainable future.

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