When Jesse Hildebrand was five or six years old, receiving an Oxford First encyclopedia as a present brought joy to his young heart.
Flipping through the book and seeing the scientific photos that illustrated astronomy, chemistry and other sciences excited him and sparked a life-long passion for science.
From there, his love of science spilled over into other parts of Hildebrand’s life. He loved reading and going to the library, watching the Crocodile Hunter with the late Steve Irwin, playing with dinosaurs, rocks and gems, and going into his backyard to count how many different types of insect species he could find.
Fast forward several years later and Hildebrand is just as fascinated by science as he was when he was a child. Most recently, he graduated from post-secondary with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.
“I was a tremendous nerd from birth…you look through a telescope and you see back in time at stars that were there a million years ago. You look into a microscope and see a million organisms,” he said, adding space and animals are his passions.
“Space I enjoy because it’s a humble way to see our place in the universe to know the scale and size of the universe around us.”
After graduating, Hildebrand noticed local libraries often showcased the latest bestsellers such as The Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight, but rarely showcased books about science.
This was the catalyst for Hildebrand to start Science Literacy Week in Toronto and Mississauga three years ago, during which a few local groups, such as the library, aquarium and museum, put on events to encourage kids to become interested in science again.
Since then, Science Literacy Week has grown into a nation-wide celebration of science with more than 60 cities around the country participating, and more than 160 organizations putting on events from Sept. 19 to 25.
This year, there are a number of events planned at the Royal B.C. Museum, the Greater Victoria Public Library, the University of Victoria, and the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
“I hope they’re going to take away that science is exciting, fun and accessible to everyone. I think the prevailing attitude is that science is for people in university or professional scientists, and doesn’t hold much interest to the greater public,” Hildebrand said.
“I think the week and activities can help change that attitude and showcase how tremendously exciting and magical it is.”
Local events include Surprising Science, where kids can mingle with staff and community members stationed around galleries at the Royal B.C. Museum, a DNA barcoding class, which teaches kids how to genetically identify the world around them at Victoria Makerspace, and Science Storytime for Preschoolers, where children between the ages of three to five can listen to stories and participate in activities that teach the scientific concepts behind the stories at the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Central Branch.
For a full schedule of events visit scienceliteracy.ca.