Today I was invited to a behind the scenes look at some of Vancouver’s inspiring science hubs. We were going on a field trip to meet scientists and innovators from across the province. This was done with the goal of connecting social media and its audiences with the “wonderful and nerdy world of science!” This is the “Van Science Social”.

This year’s theme was the “future”, in celebration of Science World’s 30th anniversary. The occasion had us looking to the future, with the belief that it all is rooted in nature (pun intended). This trip included a stop at Vancouver’s oldest research garden, an urban nature exhibit; and Science World’s own feature exhibition, that looks at mathematics in nature.

Our day began at Science World, where we were given a warm welcome and a light up umbrella, that would protect us from today’s downpour. We heard about the future of Science World and what they do in and out of their location, to help propel the advancement of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics). Science World President and CEO, Scott Samson spoke passionately about giving kids located in the outskirts of our province, the same learning opportunities as those whose parents own a Science World membership. He gave us impressive statistics on how many they currently reach and teach outside of their dome.

Then like school children we funnelled into a tour trolley, enroute to our first destination: UBC’s botanical garden, the oldest research garden in BC. Here, we would learn what is available and growing in our own back yard.

We dawned recyclable ponchos and walked the garden grounds to sprinkling rain. And in groups, we got a taste of the team building activities they offer as workshops. Trust games and collaborative challenges requiring communication in this serene setting.

But UBC’s botanical garden is more than a pretty place to take a walk in. These grounds are home to many documented plants from around the world. And the garden serves as a platform for conservation and research efforts. This living museum has each plant and tree life tagged with a number, and logged into their database. It is recorded when the plant material becomes part of the collection and where it originated from; all with new species and varieties being added regularly. This is done through research expeditions, and in conjunction with other botanical gardens around the world. Done in hopes of building pockets of biodiversity, where green life flourishes in their natural habitat. “Biodiversity” is taking plants out in the world and protecting them in another spot. These gardens share seeds and help one another collect samples, to have as many back-ups for plant material as possible.

The garden also hosts an original cutting of the “golden spruce”. A famous tree (with its own book) that has great significance to indigenous communities. A cutting of it has flourished to an full fledged tree, and it is interesting to note that because it is growing in a different climate, it is adapting to its new environment and is no longer golden in hue.

In total there were over 30 thousand different plants, with many varieties I have never seen prior to today. And we didn’t even get to explore the full extent of the garden, like their Asian plant garden and mountain plant section. I will have to come back to do just that.

Our tour continued with their “Power up in the trees”, tree walk. Here, we traversed a storey off the ground; hanging on to a wobbly, but incredibly sturdy arial trail system. Made from aluminum, it is built with sustainability in mind. Giving tour opportunities, without having to disrupt nature.

Nine platforms on tree towers have you circling the open garden. Eventually it does descend and you wobble back down to the ground.

We concluded the outdoor portion of our time at UBC, enjoying a nice healthy lunch of mixed greens, wild rice, and oceanwise salmon in a butter sauce.

As we finished up, we heard from Science World’s marketing team and our hosts for the day. They spoke to their initiatives to further adult attendance at the dome. Not just parents with their kids, but adults to visit on their own. There are plans on utilizing the IMAX theatre more, as the world’s largest dome theatre. With plans to digitized it so that they can broadcast programming that speaks more to current events and society’s issues. To invite guests to come and learn, then use their planned forum space to discuss and enact.

Then it was back onto the trolley for stop number two on this year’s Van Science Social field trip.

We arrived at the Vancouver Museum, located in Vanier Park. Most noticeable as the building shapes like a Haida hat. This is Canada’s oldest civic museum. They are in the business of telling stories, and today we were here to hear the ones regarding interactions between wild animals and people. A retelling shared through writing and taxidermy in the showcase, “Wild Things”. And we were lucky enough to have the curator of the exhibition giving us the tour.

There is a room that simulated the sounds and feeling of rain. Like a walk in the wet woods, with a crawl through entry. Here you rested on beanbag chairs and listened to the water dripping and pooling, watching projected droplets drip on to a tarp. This was my favourite.

The next room featured salmon printed on acetate sheets, “swimming” with the help of fans.

The owl room was the curator’s personal encounter with an owl. Her experience written and simulated for all to share. You walk into a dark room and up to a lit screen, only to realize it is you that you are seeing on it. Then you look in the camera’s direction, only to be caught off guard by the owl perched above. This, a very similar sensation to what the author felt.

The deer room was the most memorable, a curated table that featured an elk as the guest of honour, with more elks on the printed wall paper and table cloth to match. This story spoke to traditional deer hunting practices and being thankful for the animal, cleaning it and sharing it with an entire village. Every part is used and nothing goes to waste.

The bird wall was for climbing. You perch yourself at various points and peep through holes to catch glimpses of feathered fowl.

And the remainder of the exhibit was a collection of taxidermy animals accounting for all the wild life that can be seen in our urban city; as well as a map with flags indicating where they were spotted.

We also had the opportunity to explore the other exhibits that was currently running. Like “Neon Vancouver, Ugly Vancouver”, recapping Vancouver’s history through glowing lights on billboards and awning signs.

And “Haida Now”, showcasing 450 artifacts from Haida Gwaii.

The series of children’s art collected from an Indian residential and day school was heart wrenching. I took the time to process what I saw. Taking advantage of the quiet space the museum provided, for those with as strong of a reaction as I had. Out of respect for the subject material I have not taken any photos, but instead encourage you to read their stories for yourself.

And of course the history of Vancouver told through artifacts in their permanent exhibit. This was a story of expansion and immigration told through every day objects and clothes long forgotten.

Then it was back on to the trolley for our last ride.

Here, we were transported to Science World and given free time to experience “Exploration of Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze exhibition”. I have actually been to the maze previously, so will defer to my original post below, but include a few new photos for your digestion.

The Mirror Maze at Science World


And then our full day ended with a reception, where we nibbled on catered bites and sipped on wine and beer. Cured meats and hard cheeses with crackers, spring roll bundles, miniature burgers and quiches, and chicken salad tarts.

But the feature was the celebratory cake. A two tiered work of chocolate and cream, sculpted to look like Science World’s dome in fondant. What a way to remember its past and look towards its future. And I am personally looking forward to the more adult themed reasons to visit the city’s most iconic dome.

Thank you Van Science Social for sending me on this field trip. I forgot the joys of missing “school” (work) for the day, in lieu of learning a different way.