Science in the summer

Craving knowledge? Here’s what’s happening in Winnipeg

Photo by Asad Aman

It’s August, and the countdown to the beginning of a new school year has started. If the prospect of going back has got you scrambling to make the most of your last month, fear not: here are some things to do in Winnipeg right now that will give you your science fix without the homework.

Catch the Planetarium’s new show

We know that there are planets we have yet to see out in the universe. What we don’t know yet is if any of them host life. That burning question is explored in the show The Search for Life: Are We Alone?, currently hosted by the Manitoba Museum in its Planetarium. Called “an engrossing immersive theater experience,” the show will take you through what we know so far about the existence of extraterrestrial life.

The show was first produced in 2002 by the American Museum of Natural History in collaboration with NASA, and makes use of extensive research and statistics, and puts them to a stunning backdrop of 3D visuals. There is also a star-studded team of nerd favorites behind the show: the narrator is none other than Han Solo himself, Academy Award-nominated Harrison Ford. The script was written by Ann Druyan and Steven Sote , who are best known for scripting the iconic miniseries Cosmos: A Personal Voyage along with its presenter, Carl Sagan.

After the show, there will be a live segment exploring our own night sky. The show is 35 minutes long, suitable for all ages, and the Museum offers a student discount (just bring your student ID). It’s well worth it.

Visit or call (204) 956-2830 for more information.

Do just about anything at FortWhyte Alive

FortWhyte Alive is a busy place – even their website proudly states “there’s always something on.” If biology is your field of interest, there are several events worth checking out at the iconic local wildlife park. If you can’t manage to catch any of these events before school starts, no worries, as FortWhyte offers introspective nature tours and other cool activities all year round.

FortWhyte Alive is known for its EcoTours programs, and many of them are great ways to get a hands-on understanding of concepts in biology or botany. The “Fantastic Flora” tour will teach you how to recognize local wildflowers, while the “Farming in the City: Growing Local” tour will take you through FortWhyte Alive’s organic gardens, greenhouse, and apiary, and leave you with new knowledge of self-sustainable farming.

On Aug. 14, there will be a class on building “bee hotels” that will not only help you build your own bee home, but will also include an introduction to the biology of bees and their importance to our ecosystem.

If you are a parent or caregiver, FortWhyte Alive’s “Wild Child” program is a great way to introduce the curious kid in your life to biology basics. Running every Wednesday from Aug. 10 to Sept. 14, each session will include educational content for parents on wildlife and nature, while also including activities for the child. While this program is meant for parents or caregivers of children aged 1-3, FortWhyte Alive also offers a program for parents or caregivers of babies aged 0-1. The “Born to Be Wild” program includes an introduction to foraging and an interpretive hike, and is happening on Thursdays from Aug. 11 to Sept. 15.

Note: All of these programs require pre-registration. Call (204) 989-8355 or visit for more information.

Visit the Museum in the comfort of your own home

If leaving home doesn’t seem appealing (or this heat wave is something you’d prefer to avoid) researchers at the Manitoba Museum have got your back. The museum, with sponsorship from the Virtual Museum of Canada, has released an exhibit called Prairie Pollination. You won’t be able to find it at the physical location, however: the complete exhibit is online.

The exhibit mainly focuses on prairie plants and insects, but also stresses the importance of conserving Manitoba’s wildlife by protecting pollinators, such as hummingbirds and insects. Due to the typically fragile nature of insect and plant specimens, particularly in an endangered ecosystem like the Canadian prairies, it has been nearly impossible to introduce an exhibit of this nature in an actual gallery format. With this virtual exhibit, however, anyone can take a virtual tour of Manitoba’s beautiful plant life through the use of videos, transcripts, photo galleries, and interviews with Manitoban scientists and researchers.

The interactive element that makes museums so great isn’t lost on this virtual exhibit. “Prairie Pollination” includes a quiz to test your pollinator knowledge, an online game, and even a scavenger hunt wherein you visit the actual Manitoba museum to try and find plants in the galleries that had been discussed in the virtual exhibit. There’s also a photo gallery of watercolor paintings of wild plants by the famous Manitoba-based entomologist Norman Criddle.

Maybe the most interesting interactive aspect is the PlantSpotting app, which is free to download from the iTunes Store. This app uses your location and informs you of plants and pollinators nearby. If you happen to come across any of them, the app also allows you to upload a photo of the species to their database. It’s a great exhibit, there’s hours of information, and it’s completely free. Have at it.

Visit to visit the exhibit.