Space Educators Institute 2020 Virtual Conference

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The Space Educators Institute is a 3-day conference focused on providing training in space themed resources for formal and informal educators from across Canada. The Space Educators Institute aims to create a national learning ecosystem that unites educators across Canada. Our vision is that the space community can support a strong science culture in Canada, through a networked learning ecosystem that could empower anyone to be a 21st century learner and global problem solver, and help accelerate innovation, productivity, inclusion and entrepreneurship. After a successful pilot in 2019, we are proud to announce the Space Educators Institute 2020 will be offered virtually and will run August 5 to 7, 2020.

Event Details:

Date: August 5-7, 2020

Time: 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. EDT

Cost: FREE, however, there are limited spots! 

Location: Offered virtually through Zoom


Registration is now closed. 

Social Media: Follow us on @westernuSpace on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates! Post on social media with hashtag #SpaceEd20 and tag us at @westernuSpace. 


Keynote Speakers:

Pictured: Taryn Tomlinson, Dr. Bruce Betts, Dr. Phil Plait

August 5, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 12:15 p.m. Opening Remarks and Land Acknowledgement
Dr. Gordon Osinski, Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, Western University
12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.


Earth Observation Satellites
Taryn Tomlinson, Senior Engineer, Strategic Relations, Canadian Space Agency

Through this presentation, Taryn Tomlinson will offer an overview of how Earth observation satellites provide daily benefits to Canadians. She will also present educators with games and activities available on the Canadian Space Agency website that could be used to approach this subject in class.

1 p.m. - 2 p.m.

Parallel Sessions

Exploring Introductory Astronomy: Stellar Evolution & Black Holes
Dr. Kelly Foyle, Educational Outreach Scientist, Perimeter Institute

Astronomy is one of the most fascinating topics in all of science. In this workshop, we will explore stars, stellar evolution, and black holes with engaging online activities. We will also discuss how the Event Horizon Telescope took the first image of a black hole, M87*. Teachers can use these activities in their science classrooms or adapt them for students to do virtually at home. (GRADE LEVEL: High school).

Scratch in Space - Coding the Solar System
Miranda Carlson-Strain, Program Coordinator, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Programs, Western University 

Get ready for a fun, interactive coding workshop! In this introduction to Scratch coding, you will gain experience creating and coding your own solar system. We will discuss wider curriculum connections to bring coding into your classroom, with tips and tricks for teaching coding in a virtual setting. (GRADE LEVEL: All grades)

Educators will be using Scratch coding during the session. Participants will require access to a  computer/laptop with internet access. Optional: If you wish to save your code, you can create a profile at 

2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Parallel Sessions

Astronomical Origins of Everyday Things
Kirsten Vanstone BSc, MSciComm, xecutive Director, RCIScience/RASC Toronto Centre Council/Space Place Canada Director

You probably know that a year is one orbit of the Earth around the Sun. But did you know that months and even the days of the week also connect to objects in the sky? Many concepts we use everyday have their origins in astronomy. From the calendar to clock faces, we will explore the relationship between the Sun, Moon, Earth and stars and find some surprising connections between these relationships and everyday life. (GRADE LEVEL: Junior grades)

Remote Sensing and Satellites 101
Dr. Parshati Patel, Educational Outreach and Communcations Specialist, Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, Western University

Remote Sensing: Remote sensing refers to the use of satellites to gather information on distant planetary bodies. In this activity, students will use remote sensing techniques to develop an elevation map of an unknown surface feature hidden inside a shoebox. This is comparable to how satellites map surfaces of planets that have thick atmospheres, such as Venus. We will also explore options for the activity online using various softwares and websites. Satellites 101: Above you now thousands of human-made satellites are orbiting Earth, but what are they for? This introductory lesson highlights different satellite applications and how they affect us in everyday life. Students will get a taste of using satellite imagery to detect changes in the environment. This activity will open discussions linking other disciplines of study, such as geography and environmental sciences. (ALL GRADES)

3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Sharing and Networking

August 6, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.


The Excitement of Space Exploration: from Sailing Spacecraft on Light, to Engaging Your Students with Easy Night Sky Astronomy
Dr. Bruce Betts, Children’s Book Author, Science Educator, and Chief Scientist and LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

Space is exciting, inspiring, and educational for all ages. From sailing the LightSail 2 spacecraft on light, to easy things to see in the night sky, Dr. Betts will share with you the excitement of space exploration. He’ll give information and show stunning images from The Planetary Society’s ongoing LightSail 2 spacecraft mission, the first small (loaf of bread sized) spacecraft to demonstrate controlled solar sailing. He’ll also provide tips and resources to help you share with your students the joy of finding things in the night sky.

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Parallel Sessions

Measure the Earth with your Students
Julie Bolduc-Duval, Director, Discover the Universe

Over 2000 years ago, Eratosthenes found an ingenious way to measure the circumference of the Earth with amazing accuracy. This experiment is a multidisciplinary project which shows the power of ingenuity to solve problems. It combines concepts in math, geography and astronomy and allows students to make an amazingly accurate measurement of the Earth – something they probably never thought they could do! We’ll show you how to do this project with your students and maybe even collaborate with schools around the world. (GRADE LEVEL: High school).

Space, Time, and Geography: A tour of Can Geo Education's resources for K-12 teachers 

Dr. Michelle Chaput, Director of Education, Canadian Geographic Education & Justine Bohn, Education Program Coordinator, Canadian Geographic Education

Have you heard about Canadian Geographic Education's free 11 x 8 metre Canada From Space Giant Floor Map for schools? Its accompanying teacher's guide and student materials make for an out-of-this-world group learning experience! This session will explore the ins and outs of our Giant Floor Map program, as well as our many interactive websites and curriculum-related materials that support in-class and e-learning for K-12 students. We'll also share our favourite tips and tricks on how to include more technology and immersive learning experiences in your lessons. (GRADE LEVEL: All grades).

This session will use Google Expeditions app. You can download the Google Expeditions app (from the Apple Store or from Google Play) onto their phone or tablet.  

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Parallel Sessions

Explore the Solar System with Open Source Data
Dr. Bhairavi Shankar, Founder at Indus Space Inc.

Wondered how to access current mission data of Mars, Moon, or the solar system to incorporate while you teach about space in the classroom? This workshop will introduce educators to available data resources and provide a tutorial on visualizing data. This content can be utilized by teachers when introducing space themed content in your classrooms or on projects! (GRADE LEVEL: Middle school to high school)

This session will use Google Earth Pro and it is recommended to have it downloaded. The session will also explore JMars ( but downloading is optional. 

Multicultural Astronomy
Dr. Nalini Chandra, Educator and Researcher

Dr. Chandra will show some computer simulations of celestial movements throughout the world. From a software on her computer, she will cite and describe some stories about the sun and the moon from around the world and provide some links on multicultural astronomy for educators to explore. She will also, discuss what they need to keep in mind when introducing multicultural astronomy.(GRADE LEVEL: K-6)

3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Indigenous astronomies, stories of the sky and learning about the Universe
Dr. Hilding Neilson, CLTA Assistant Professor

Indigenous peoples have lived on this land since time immemorial and every nation and community has a sophisticated understanding of astronomy and the night sky that is not reflected in traditional western education. Much of that knowledge comes in the form of stories that connect phenomena in the sky with nature and the land below. In this discussion, I will share some stories from the Mi’kmaw people and show how these stories teach us about astronomy. I will also discuss some differences between how many Indigenous peoples approach science and how science in approached in the western tradition. I will conclude with a discussion of the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing for astronomy that aims to use both western traditional methods and Indigenous methods together to create greater understanding of the Universe and our place in it. (GRADE LEVEL: All grades)

August 7, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.


Strange New Worlds: Is Earth Special?
Dr. Phil Plait, Astronomer

Astronomers have discovered well over 4000 exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting alien stars. These planets orbit a wide variety of stars, and themselves are all wildly different; huge, small, hot, cold, airless, or with thick atmospheres. As we learn more about them, we come closer to answering the Big Questions: Is there another Earth out there? And if so, will it support life? Is Earth unique, or is the galaxy filled with blue-green worlds that look achingly like our own? In this engaging and fun talk, astronomer Phil Plait will show you how we find these planets, and how our own compares to them.

1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Parallel Sessions

Bringing the James Webb Space Telescope Into Your Classroom
Dr. Nathalie Ouellette, JWST Outreach Scientist

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor of the famous Hubble Space Telescope. JWST, a 6.5m infrared telescope, is without a doubt one of the most complex machines ever built by humanity and will give us the capacity to see farther than ever in our Universe, peer through the cosmic dust sprinkled throughout galaxies and discover and study new alien worlds. Not only is this astronomical marvel just around the corner, but Canada is an essential part of the mission! Learn how the Webb Telescope will shape the next decade and beyond of science and how you can incorporate its mission and the wonders it will unveil in your classroom. (GRADE LEVEL: High school, adaptable for elementary)

This session will be using Kahoot! during our session. Participants will not need an account, but they can familiarise themselves with the platform here: 

Impact Earth and Impact Cratering
Dr. Gordon Osinski, Professor and Director, Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, Western University

Throughout the history of Earth, the evolution of life and the planet has coincided with and been punctuated by impacts from meteorites. The mission to collect and categorize information about Earth impacts has been spearheaded by Canadians as far back as 1946 when Carlyle Smith Beals, a Canadian astronomer, began a study of meteorite impact craters in the Canadian shield. This tradition is carried on today at Western University with the development of the Impact Earth database, a modern and comprehensive database of all confirmed impacts on Earth. Craters are seen on every rocky body in the solar system but understanding their characteristics and how they form continues to be a challenging task for planetary scientists. This activity focuses on answering some of those questions using an inquiry style activity. (GRADE LEVEL: All grades)

2:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

To Burp or Not to Burp? Using Questions to Teach Space

Dr. Dave Williams, President and CEO, Exploration Incorporated and Loredana Cunti, Author and Executive Producer

Description coming soon!

3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Closing Remarks
Dr. Isha DeCoito, Faculty of Education, Western University

Space education being taught to groups of people in classrooms.