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Celebrating Canadian Science & Technology with Chris Hadfield

John Whitman


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"189","attributes":{"title":"Chris Hadfield Mission 34-35","height":"228","width":"280","class":"media-image wp-image-989 alignleft media-element file-media-large"}}]] The e-mail arrived at lunch. On the way back to school from a health & safety inspection I read what would transport me back to the early 70's, transfixed in front of the television watching my heroes walk on the moon. The little boy in me was thrilled to read the words: "Congratulations! You have been chosen to take part in the Canadian Space Agency’s “A Day in the Life of Chris Hadfield aboard ISS” Tweetup event on February 7, 2013." Walking into E.A. Fairman P.S., I radiated excitement and joy. "Ok, spill it John," said a colleague in the staff room when I walked in. For most of the morning I just held out the phone and had people read the message, still not sure it was true. I teach grade 4-8 math & science at a small mid-century school in the heart of Whitby, Ontario. The school is just down the street from the Durham ETFO local office where I'm a 0.2 released Health & Safety Officer and Executive member.  Before becoming a teacher 12 years ago, I worked in the field of environmental health & safety for over a decade.  I have had a lifelong interest in science and greatly enjoy instilling that interest in my students. Every year that I have taught, I have helped spirits and dreams soar skyward aboard model rockets built as a culminating activity for both the air & flight and space units in grade 6. Each year many of the grade 7 & 8 students bring in the rockets they built to see them soar again. Some even bring new rockets they have built on their own. There is nothing as satisfying as a wide eyed child looking up and saying "wow, I did that". Usually followed shortly by, "can I do it again?" The event at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters outside Montreal is a celebration of both astronaut Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) and the Canadian presence on the International Space Station (ISS).  Chris gained a significant following on Twitter after a high profile exchange between himself and William Shatner. The Canadian actor who played the fictional space commander of USS Enterprise who inspired millions, talks to a real-life Canadian astronaut who is about to take command of the largest and most complex spacecraft humanity has ever built. Thousands of us followed Chris before this, but in the weeks since that exchange, his Twitter following has climbed above 300,000 followers. This is worth celebrating, not just by those with an interest in science and technology, but by all Canadians. Chris has been tweeting stunning pictures of the Earth from space, talking about the life and work of the ISS crew, sharing his work carrying out scientific experiments and operating the Canadarm2, and answering questions from people of all ages. He has raised awareness of science and space, inspired thousands to learn more, and made a country very proud. On Wednesday after school, I will be driving to Montreal to join a small group of 30 very lucky people. We will gather at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Saint-Hubert to meet another Canadian astronaut, Jeremy Hansen (@Astro_Jeremy), for a question & answer session before taking part in a space to ground connection with Chris Hadfield from 10:40 to 11:00 along with William Shatner. The group will then receive a full tour of the CSA and meet several principal investigators and the Chief Scientist at CSA who will outline their current research and present demonstrations of their work. As a special treat, some lucky participants will be selected to train in the Canadarm2 robotics simulator. Back in Whitby, the students at E.A. Fairman Public School will be watching the live webcast of the downlink event on the CSA Website at and following updates of the day’s events via Twitter with the #CSATweetup hashtag. My grade 6 class is about to begin their unit on Space and I will be bringing back a wealth of new knowledge about Canada’s current research, materials for use in the class, and personal contacts that the students can use for their own research. In my next blog post, I will be sharing what I experienced along with links to resources. Follow John on twitter: @john_whitman