As much as Conference2Classroom facilitates science communication, engagement, outreach and education events across Canada, our home is in Kingston, where we were founded. Conference2Classroom founder Rachel Kuzmich is a proud geographer and could write ad nauseum on the importance of place, but suffice to say we feel it is important to build a good relationship with our home community. We are after all in a way a community organization in that we are striving to bring communities together and create new meaningful connections between people who might not otherwise interact.
So we have been talking to the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) about how we can work together.
Our first opening to LDSB was accidental, Rachel was travelling to Burlington and had a rideshare with a high school teacher at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Teachers have been particularly excited about the possibilities of bringing experts in their classrooms to complement the curriculum, and for the duration of the drive we chatted about integrating Conference2Classroom in a more regular manner to classrooms across the school board.
This led to email exchanges and eventually conversations with people from the school board and at the schools. We spoke with an individual working in equity and inclusion at LDSB who was particularly interested by our shared mission to improve accessibility to more rural and remote schools. One school is interested in collaborating through an interactive realtime broadcast program they have with other schools. Rachel will be heading to that school next month to speak with students and learn more about the facilities and technology so that she can provide better information for participating experts who may take advantage of this same platform.
It's a new relationship, we are excited to develop it over time and collaborate closely with the LDSB and the broader Kingston community.
This morning I had a meeting regarding the status of our incorporation as a non-profit organization and am happy to report that things are on pace for this to become official within the next couple of months. Yay!
I've talked about the importance of being a legal entity before (like here), and I want to emphasize some of those points again. The mission of Conference2Classroom is to create a pathway between experts attending conferences across Canada and local classrooms in the host city. While this is a simple idea there is a lot of time, energy and costs that go into it. As a new initiative, we need to get our name out, promote our mission and advertise to attract users. We need to have funding to mobilize our participating experts to our participating classrooms, and as we are particularly keen on addressing accessibility issues for communities that may not typically have this kind of service available (like rural communities) sometimes that means the costs of mobilizing is higher. And then there are operational costs (like those associated with running this website).
Incorporating as a nonprofit is important because it will give us access to funding we need to support our mission.
Part of the incorporation process involves identifying your initial board members. I am fortunate over the years to have become friends with an amazing group of individuals, and this list of amazing friends has grown each year. After my meeting this morning, I contacted a few friends who have encouraged and supported me as I have worked to build Conference2Classroom to invite them to act on my first board. I am trying to build a board that represents the types of users I would have, I think that we will make better decisions if we have a teacher and if we have an expert who has participated in an activity with us and if we have somebody who has experience in the nonprofit sector. Asking friends for a favour is always risky business, but I am hopeful to see favourable responses and looking forward to their thoughts and contributions. I can't wait to get things settled, to be able to announce our first board and introduce this amazing group of people, people I am proud to call my friends, to you.
I am filled with the same excitement in building my first board as I can only imagine getting a band together must be!
This week I sent an email. Well, to be fair, I send a lot of emails, but I wanted to share one in particular that I sent to Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science in Canada. I follow Minister Duncan on Twitter and the other day I saw she was speaking at the University of Saskatchewan, I've seen her travel and give talks all across Canada. Obviously someone as well known as Minister Duncan can approach any school in the country and speak with students. However other less well known individuals may be respected experts in their given field, and they may not be able to come to classrooms with the same ease.
Conference2Classroom provides a pathway between experts, like Minister Duncan, attending conferences across Canada to connect with local classrooms. I know a lot of people are interested to participate in outreach or engagement activities, but don't know how. And what might seem like little challenge is not really that little, not knowing where to start is a major deterrent from starting anything. I have invited Minister Duncan to participate in an activity with Conference2Classroom to highlight our initiative, to bring it to a wider audience, so that other respected but less well known individuals have a chance to connect with classrooms, share their knowledge, and inspire the next generation.
I look forward to hearing from Minister Duncan.
This is the email I sent.
To the Hon Kirsty Duncan,
My name is Rachel Kuzmich and I am a PhD student at Queen's University in the Department of Geography and Planning. My undergraduate was completed at Trent University and I received a Hons BSc in Geography and Biology, with a minor in International Development Studies. My current research allows me to draw from this diverse academic background and I am looking at bird habitat for species of conservation interest using airborne laser scanning data.
Recently I founded Conference2Classroom, a scicomm outreach organization that creates a pathway between experts and researchers attending conferences across Canada with local classrooms in the host community. I was inspired to start this initiative for two reasons. First, as a graduate student I am fortunate to attend and participate in some conferences. In November 2018 I attended two conferences: ForestSAT hosted at the University of Maryland and the Canadian Association of Geographers Ontario Division conference hosted at the University of Toronto. Both conferences provided me amazing opportunities to share my work so far and learn from others in my field, and yet I perceived a missed opportunity at both conferences to engage with the local community. Second, I am particularly interested in engaging with students because I have ended up doing work that I had no idea even existed when I was growing up. I am from a very blue collar town and family and the realm of possibilities that I had in my mind of what I could be when I grew was shaped by that environment. The goal of Conference2Classroom is to provide the opportunity to share their work and inspire the future generation. And I think this is an important task.
I wanted to share this with you, as Minister of Science, I know that you do a lot of science outreach, communication and engagement activities. In fact, the impetus to write this email today comes from seeing on Twitter yesterday that you were participating in the Women in Science Speaker Series at the University of Saskatchewan. While I recognize that someone in your position doesn't really need any assistance in connecting with local classrooms, but I wanted to invite you to register with us nonetheless because other people may not have the same ease or resources in making that connection. By participating with Conference2Classroom you would be leading by example and highlighting the service we provide. It is my hope that your participation will inspire other experts and researchers attending conferences to register with us, and together we can facilitate further outreach activities and the knowledge transfer between this generation and the next.
You can get more information and register to participate here. And if you have any questions or would like to speak more about Conference2Classroom or science outreach and communication in Canada more generally, please feel free to contact me at any time.
Before the holidays I discovered the wonderful thing that is the Curiosity on Stage series at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The Curiosity on Stage series brings people working or doing research in science and technology to the museum for short interactive presentations followed by a Q & A period. I reached out to them, and while it took a bit of time (on my end) to work out a date that worked, and we have a date and that date is March 9!
Happen to be in Ottawa? Come hear my talk! Looking for an excuse to come to Ottawa? Now you have one! And bring the family as one of the goals is to engage with all kinds of people and for talks to be accessible for all.
I am so excited to share the songbird habitat research I have been doing at Queen's University as I work towards my PhD.
After launching Conference2Classroom and starting off with a bang at the end of 2018, we are ecstatic to get the new year rolling. We have three big goals this year to support our main initiative and one additional goal for how we aspire to grow. You might have noticed our spiffy new logo that popped up on our social media pages already too.
In terms of supporting our main mission, which is to connect experts attending conferences to classrooms across Canada, we need to complete the process of becoming a legitimate non-profit, increase our number of participating experts and classrooms and raise money.
So we've launching a Patreon!
The goal of this campaign is threefold. First, Patreon provides a way for our supporters to provide us support at a predictable time and in a predictable amount. Second, this platform makes it easier for us to say thanks by offering perks. And third, we hope that this will increase our visibility (which will in turn help increase our participants).
We hope you will support and share widely to your network!
Our additional goal, which is tied into the success of our Patreon campaign and other fundraising initiatives, is to develop an online scicomm/outreach workshop. This will benefit our participating experts and others who wish to engage with their communities in a meaningful manner.
Hello and here we come 2019!