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College graduates answer school district’s needs

Okanagan College Media Release

North Okanagan Shuswap School District #83 is anticipating a significant number of retirements in the next couple of years, and graduates of Okanagan College’s Education Assistant (EA) program will be ready to meet the community’s needs.

“We’re at a point in time now where we have a significant percentage of our support staff at retirement age,” says Nora Kennett, District Administrator – Student Services SD #83. “Of course, we can never predict exactly when people will choose to retire – as each employee’s situation and choices are different – but it is safe to say that we will be looking to fill this gap in the next couple years.”

Kennett should know – she not only organizes practicums for students with the school district, but also sits on the College’s program advisory committee and is an instructor.

“I really value the link between Okanagan College and the school district,” says Kennett. “This connection allows the College and the District to dialogue around important course content and what practical experiences these students should have to be successful in the role they will play in schools. The students are learning what they need to be successful graduates and the school district is ultimately able to hire employees who have the knowledge and skill set to support our most vulnerable learners.”

Okanagan College’s Education Assistant certificate prepares graduates to work in the classroom with children with diverse and unique learning needs, including physical, cognitive and/or behavioural challenges. The program is a total of nine months and includes a 120-hour practicum, during which time students are each placed in a school where they work alongside CEAs (Certified Education Assistants), teachers and learning resource teachers to practice and hone their skills.

“The practicum is as important as the classroom content,” says Kennett. “Students have an opportunity to see the actual workings of a school and learn precisely what the role of a CEA is.”

This experience gives the College students the opportunity to put into action what they have been learning in the classroom and allows students to practice two main themes of the program: reflection and teamwork.

“During the practicum, students are encouraged to reflect – to examine whether or not certain strategies worked and develop thoughts on how they could do things differently next time,” says Kennett. “A school is a dynamic place and practicum students need to have the ability to be flexible and to quickly shift and change directions when needed, all within a team context.”

Kennett says that although most Education Assistant graduates do go on to jobs within the school system, others have found employment within community agencies, such as the Shuswap Children’s Association. With graduates eligible to apply for their Early Childhood Educator Assistant license
, some have chosen to take on roles in daycare and preschool settings. And others choose to work as behavioural interventionists focusing on supporting children on the autism spectrum.

“What’s interesting,” says Kennett, “is that in every class I teach – without fail – students remark on how the learning from this course about supporting and caring for others would be spectacular for everybody to know. Many tell me that they take home what they’ve learned and reflect on how to use the strategies with their own kids and family.”

Okanagan College’s Education Assistant certificate program is now accepting applications for a program start date of Jan. 5, 2016 at the Salmon Arm campus. For more information, call 250-804-8888, email
[email protected] or go online to www.okanagan.bc.ca/educationassistant.

Interactive learning tools help students map the brain

UBC professor turns to technology to help students learn neuroanatomy

For those who traditionally learned about anatomy outside medical school, figuring out what the human brain looks like inside the skull was largely a textbook exercise.

Diagrams with arrows and text descriptions acted as a roadmap with student absorption largely reliant on memorization. In the age of the Internet and Instagram, it’s a model that educators may need to improve on if they are to meet students’ interactive learning expectations, says UBC Assoc. Prof. Bruce Mathieson.

“My students have been telling me that most of them are visual learners, that they don’t necessarily retain all the information they need from attending lectures and taking notes,” says Mathieson, who teaches biology at UBC Okanagan’s Irving K Barber School of Arts and Sciences. “Technology is a way of life for most of today’s students, and visuals are a huge part of that.”

With visuals in mind, Mathieson has been working on bringing textbook learning to the computer screen. In addition to creating seven videos detailing a dissection of the human brain, he received a $9,750 Curriculum Innovation Award to hire a programmer and create a tool that allows students to virtually navigate the brain on their laptops. Mathieson completed the tool last month, which he refers to as a first step into a more distributed model of learning.

“It’s like a little video game, you can navigate and isolate the various areas of the brain and it’s a way of putting pictures to the parts of the brain anatomy you are learning about,” says Mathieson. “Students are telling me that they are spending a lot more time looking at the material, and I find many of them are getting upwards of 95 percent on their tests.”

For their part, Mathieson’s students say that the interactive learning tools help with their studies.

“The concept of neuroanatomy was one of the more challenging aspects of my education,” said Mathieson’s student Shane Simon. “I found it to be quite an advantage to be able to virtually walk through the material, step-by-step, nucleus by nucleus, in my own way and in my own time.”

“Instead of just memorizing the material from a textbook, this tool allowed me to see real-life structures of the brain and the names associated with them, which is fun,” said fellow student Iman Zahirfar. “Because of the set-up of the tool, I became more curious as to what each structure did and actually ended up studying more as a result.”

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in today’s educational environment, says Michelle Lamberson, UBC’s Director of Flexible Learning and Special Projects.

“With today’s rate of information turnover, memorizing and repeating information is a bit of an outdated model,” says Lamberson. “Faculty can use technology to structure content in innovative ways that encourages students to explore and better own their learning process.

“With Bruce’s approach, he is not only allowing students to see something that is not normally accessible to the eye, he has also provided a rich context for interacting with a complex anatomical structure. These types of environments can provide powerful learning experiences for students.”

At UBC Okanagan, encouraging new and innovative ways for teaching and learning is a priority. This year, the campus unveiled its Aspire Learning and Teaching Fund that provides faculty with up to $50,000 for new and innovative projects.

UBC Okanagan’s Bruce Mathieson has created an interactive technology tool to help his students map the brain.

UBC Okanagan’s Bruce Mathieson has created an interactive technology tool to help his students map the brain.


New Inclusive Technology Lab levels the academic field at UBC

Workspace options improve learning opportunities for many students

A new space has opened up on UBC’s Okanagan campus that will help level the academic playing field for students with disabilities.

The new Inclusive Technology Lab (ITL), located just inside the main doors of the library, has assistive technology that can help students with specific needs. Currently, there are 369 students registered with the campus’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC), a service centre for students, faculty, and staff that improves educational equity for students with a disability, illness, or where injury limits their functioning in an educational setting.

Students registered with the DRC, and also those interested in learning more about assistive technology, can access the new lab to use the assistive software, try out the ergonomic workspaces, or study in a distraction-reduced space, says Barbara Sobol, undergraduate services librarian at UBC Okanagan.

“The Okanagan Library is passionate about creating an open, inclusive, respectful, and collegial working and learning environment,” says Sobol. “Assistive technology benefits our students by levelling out the reading, writing, and comprehension playing fields.”

While the DRC does have a computer workstation with assistive technology installed, the office is only open during regular business hours, limiting the time that it can be used by students.

The new ITL is open during regular library hours; early in the morning until late each evening. And Sobol explains there are many uses for the space — not only is it being used by DRC registered students, it can also be used by those who are recovering from a temporary injury, and it is a place where all students can learn about the many aspects of assistive technology.

“This is essential for creating an inclusive campus environment where our students develop an understanding of how others interact with learning and with technology,” says Sobol. “These are critical skills for students to carry into the workforce and society more generally.”

While assistive technology is often associated with support for students with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities, increasingly this technology is being used to support students with neurological disabilities, including brain injuries, autism, mental illness, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.

Examples of assistive technology can be an ergonomic mouse, a digital magnifier for a monitor or computer screen, and software that allows the user to operate a computer with voice commands. Along with the installed equipment, like stationary computer desks, the ITL also provides equipment that can be loaned and taken home. This allows the students to have flexibility in workspace options and gives them an opportunity to try out technology options and determine their preferences.

Sobol notes that funding for the lab was made possible by two anonymous donors, a private B.C.-based foundation, and a couple of UBC alumni. This was part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, which recently closed having surpassed its $100,000,000 goal raised in the Okanagan.

Earllene Roberts, with UBC Okanagan’s Disability Resource Centre, and Barbara Sobol, undergraduate services librarian, demonstrate some of the equipment available at the campus’s new Inclusive Technology Lab to Provost and Vice-Principal Academic of the Okanagan campus Cynthia Mathieson (right).

Earllene Roberts, with UBC Okanagan’s Disability Resource Centre, and Barbara Sobol, undergraduate services librarian, demonstrate some of the equipment available at the campus’s new Inclusive Technology Lab to Provost and Vice-Principal Academic of the Okanagan campus Cynthia Mathieson (right).



UBC Okanagan flu vaccine numbers receive shot in the arm

UBC Okanagan nursing student Sarah Buchsbaum receives her flu shot from fellow student Talia Fraser.

UBC Okanagan nursing student Sarah Buchsbaum receives her flu shot from fellow student Talia Fraser.

Number of students, staff, and faculty rolling up their sleeves rises 780 per cent in 10 years

Ten years ago, 92 people took part in the first flu clinic held at UBC’s Okanagan campus. This year, the number of students, faculty, and staff attending on-campus flu clinics has risen to 810 — a 780 per cent increase.

Campus flu clinics are offered annually through a partnership with UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, UBC’s Risk Management Services, the Southern Medical Program (SMP), as well as representatives from Safeway Pharmacy.

“While a portion of the increase we are seeing can be attributed to the growth of our campus, it’s clear that awareness is resulting in more people deciding to protect themselves and others from influenza,” says Gord Binsted, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Development. “We look forward to increasing the awareness and the number of flu shots given on campus in the years to come.”

This year’s flu clinics were held at UBC Okanagan’s administration building on November 4 and 9. Flu shots were available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional clinics were held for UBC Okanagan nursing and SMP students on November 17 and 19.

“Our nursing students possess a wide variety of knowledge and skills that prepare them to partner in community health initiatives such as flu clinics,” says Sheila Epp, acting director of UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing. “These flu clinics provide additional opportunities for experiential learning as well as assisting them with their goal of increasing the overall health and wellness of our campus.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were about 8,000 reported hospitalizations due to influenza and 600 reported influenza-related deaths in 2014-15. The best way to prevent the flu, according to the Government of Canada, is to get a flu shot.


Engineering student represents Canada at world trampoline championship

Student bounces from gym to lab to class to international competition

When UBC engineering student Trevor Stirling talks about a Miller plus, don’t be thinking it has anything to do with a beverage.

Stirling, who is in his third year of electrical engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus, is heading to the world trampoline championships taking place in Denmark next week. The young athlete, a Kelowna Secondary School grad, has been bouncing on a trampoline since 2007, and will represent Canada in the men’s single competition.

A Miller plus (named after American gymnast Wayne Miller), is the official name of one of several jumps that Stirling does during his trampoline routine. It’s a double backflip, with a couple of double full twists thrown in for good measure. Because gymnastics is still a subjective sport, marked by a panel of judges, the tougher and more complex the routine, the higher the point count will be for the 20-year-old athlete.

For Stirling, who spends his days in the labs and classes at UBC’s Okanagan campus, there’s a science behind the competitive aspect of the trampoline. And his analytical, scientific mind can transfer that science into the sport to help improve his routine.

“I can think about the conservation of angular momentum while I’m jumping and I can use that to figure out how to get more flip,” he explains. “And when I’m in the gym working on the trampoline that takes my mind off my studying.”

Stirling spends five nights a week at the gym, and carrying a full course load of six upper-level credits means he has a heavy academic schedule. But, he likes to be challenged and has high ambitions — in the gym and in the classroom.

Jonathan Holzman, associate professor in the School of Engineering, says Stirling is at the top of his class and comes across as a disciplined and remarkably humble student. Holzman runs the Integrated Optics Laboratory at UBC Okanagan and Stirling is on his research team — working on terahertz generation and spectroscopy (experimenting with the different frequencies of light and comparing those with the frequencies of electrons).

“Trevor personifies excellence. He excels in academics and athletics,” says Holzman. “And he has put forward major contributions to our research on terahertz technology. He truly is one of our nation's rising stars."

While he will represent Canada at the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships next week, Stirling knows the competition is top-notch. It’s literally the best in the world. He has no grand illusions about winning it all.

“This competition is a qualifier for the Olympics and the top eight will get a spot,” he says. “Even now I know it’s not a possibility for me in 2016. I’m aiming to score about 100 points this competition, and I know I’ll be a bit behind the leaders who will probably earn about 110.”

While competing in Odense, he will also soak up the atmosphere of the international competition.  He has been competing for years, first as a junior, and each international event is a chance to watch the world’s best athletes, learn from them, and improve on his own skills. And he will come back from the world finals just in time for the first-semester final exams. That’s his reality.

“I have had to miss a lot of school and the professors have been really good about supporting me,” he says. “They know, when I’m not in class, I’m competing somewhere.”

Third-year electrical engineering student Trevor Stirling will represent Canada at the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships taking place in Denmark next week. The UBC student, and KSS grad, competes in the men’s single trampoline event.

Third-year electrical engineering student Trevor Stirling will represent Canada at the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships taking place in Denmark next week. The UBC student, and KSS grad, competes in the men’s single trampoline event.


College brings its renowned Culinary program to Revelstoke

Okanagan College Media Release

Casavant and Maw Nov. 2015Aggressive growth in the tourism and hospitality sector has created a demand for skilled workers in Revelstoke’s culinary industry, as a result, Okanagan College will offer its Professional Cook Level One program in February to prepare the chefs of tomorrow for the in-demand jobs of today.

The 20-week program, which is currently accepting applications, will be offered in partnership with School District 19 and the City of Revelstoke. Senior Secondary school students and mature students, or anyone who is 19 years of age or has been out of Secondary school for at least one year, are eligible to enrol. Secondary students who take the program will acquire Level One technical training credit, as well as credit that counts toward their Grade 12 graduation.  

“Our community has experienced a significant increase in the number of tourists who visit us each year,” said Alan Mason, Director of Community Economic Development for the Revelstoke area. “We have seen hotel room revenues increase by 35 per cent since 2008 and we estimate the tourism sector has grown to make up 16 per cent of the city’s base employment income. We need to ensure we have the skilled work force we need to accommodate this growth and one area where we anticipate strong demand for employment is in the culinary sector.”

Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts program begins with Professional Cook Level One, which is the first of three apprenticeship training levels required to become a Red Seal Chef. 

“We are really excited to bring our Culinary Arts program to Revelstoke in the New Year,” said Chef Bernard Casavant, Culinary Manager at Okanagan College. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone with a passion and interest for food to learn from our skilled instructor without having to travel to another community for a professional culinary education. I know first-hand the value of a certified Red Seal trade and have benefitted from a rewarding and challenging career as an executive chef.”

Okanagan College’s Professional Cook One program will begin on Feb. 1 and will run for 20 weeks from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Revelstoke Community Centre.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the program, entrance requirements or application process can attend a free information night on Monday, Nov. 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Community Centre. 

Research pokes holes in police tactics to obtain confessions of crime

Stephen Porter’s research team at UBC’s Okanagan campus has proven that police interview tactics can lead to false confessions from wrongly-accused people.

Stephen Porter’s research team at UBC’s Okanagan campus has proven that police interview tactics can lead to false confessions from wrongly-accused people.

Study participants easily led to believe fake memory of criminal activities

If you’ve ever watched a TV crime drama, or even the national news, you’ve likely witnessed a suspect, after endless police questioning, breakdown in tears to confess to a crime.

Dramatic evidence, however, now proves that people subjected to false memories and persuasive interrogation tactics by those with authority, can actually recall — with vivid details — incorrect events and, in turn, convince themselves they committed a crime.

A research study at UBC’s Okanagan campus in 2013 and recently published in the journal Psychological Science, involved 60 students who were interviewed three different times as part of then PhD student Julia Shaw’s dissertation. Shaw was working with Prof. Stephen Porter, who teaches forensic psychology with the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.

The results were shocking, says Porter.

“The implications from our research are huge,” he says. “We mimicked police tactics and our research proved fairly decisively that police interview tactics can lead people to misremember in very dramatic ways.”

Student participants were given two different memories — a true memory that was provided by their parents — and one that was totally false. During the first interview session, both memories were revealed to the students and the researchers intertwined each memory with personal information, like a pet’s name, best friend, names of a school, or other ‘real’ memories.

For some participants, the false memory was a criminal or violent activity. But others were given an innocuous memory of an everyday event. During the following two interview sessions, participants were asked to remember the two events. The interviewers used persuasive tactics commonly seen in Canadian police interrogations.

Porter says more than 70 per cent of the students who had been given a fake crime memory thought it had actually happened.

“We ended the study prematurely because the effects were so powerful and it was unnecessary to continue the manipulation on further participants,” says Porter.

Porter has spent much of his academic career researching manipulative liars and he works closely with police and the justice system studying body language to determine if people are lying. This new research now turns the tables, indicating that suggestive investigative techniques by the police, may lead people to confess to crimes they did not commit.

According to Porter, there have been some cases in Canada where judges have criticized the way police have conducted interviews, saying they were too coercive or suggestive.

Porter points to a 1996 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Regina. Three of her friends were interrogated independently. After many hours, one confessed to beating the victim to death, one eventually said he stabbed her, and the third said he blacked out, had no memory of the crime, but confessed anyway. The three were arrested and charged, even though police knew the victim had been strangled. DNA evidence later exonerated all three.

“I think we really have to start looking at the techniques being used by police interrogators,” says Porter, noting it seems acceptable to society for police to tell lies, befriend the suspect, and create a sense of guilt, and maybe implant false memories during the interview process. “Our research proved pretty quickly that most of us, given the pressure and provided with memories, whether they are true or not, would confess to a crime of which we were innocent.”

This research paper, titled Creating Rich False Memories of Committing Crime, was conducted through UBC Okanagan’s Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law. A summary of the work will be published by the prestigious Trends in Cognitive Science journal next month.


College hosts session on combining construction program and green building project

Res Con 7Would-be builders and carpenters have a chance on Nov. 23 to find out more about a course next spring that will take them onto the jobsite of tomorrow as Okanagan College instructors and students help to construct one of the most energy efficient homes in the region.
The College’s Trades Department is hosting an information session at 5 p.m. on the evening of Nov. 23 to showcase a Residential Construction program that will see students working side-by-side with a local homebuilder to construct two homes in the Wilden subdivision in Kelowna.
Students who sign up for the College’s Residential Construction program in February will have a unique opportunity to hone their skills through a unique research project designed to study how new building technologies can translate to energy savings for homeowners.
The 26-week course will introduce students to all aspects of the construction trades, including familiarization with the latest building materials and installation techniques. Graduates will receive Level 1 technical training credit and credit for 450 work-based hours toward completion of the Carpenter Level 1 apprenticeship program.
As part of the building project, two single-family “Living Laboratory” homes will be constructed on lots provided by Wilden developer Blenk Development Corporation. The first home will be built to current building code, while the second will be designed and built to push the envelope and achieve next-level energy efficiency through the use of a number of emerging sustainable building technologies.
Students from the Residential Construction program will work with local builder AuthenTech Homes to install the latest energy efficient technologies into the second home. Researchers from UBCO’s School of Engineering will then monitor and compare the energy use of both homes over the next three years and report their findings.
“We are very excited to see the contributions the students will make, both on the construction side and the technology side,” says Scott Tyerman, President of AuthenTech Homes. “At the end of the day, there is potential to gain some major insights into how homebuilders and homeowners can get the most out of these new technologies.”
“These students are the future of our industry,” adds Russ Foster, President of Blenk Development Corporation and Wilden’s Project Manager. “We feel it is important to work with the College and UBCO to ensure that students have meaningful opportunities to build their skills and put their knowledge to work.”
While the technology involved may be new, the project builds on over a decade of community partnerships for Okanagan College’s Residential Construction program.

To date, students have contributed to nearly 50 building projects like this throughout the valley, with the College’s Trades Department always on the lookout for new opportunities for students to gain practical experience in the construction workplace.
“This project is exciting because it will give our students the hands-on training of building homes, as well as the chance to explore and implement the latest green building technologies and techniques,” says Steve Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.
“The practical experience of being on the jobsite for a very high-end build like this, and receiving mentorship from a builder like AuthenTech homes, is so valuable for students. We are very grateful to the builder and the developer for giving our students this opportunity.”
The info session will take place on Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. in room T137, Okanagan College Kelowna Campus, 1000 KLO Road. Space is limited and those interested are asked to RSVP to Nancy Ankerstein, Program Administrator for Trades and Apprenticeship by email: [email protected].
Design and preparation for the build is underway. Construction on the homes is expected to begin next spring.
The Residential Construction program is offered at the College’s Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, and Salmon Arm campuses.

Just one HIIT: High intensity interval training may reduce risk of diabetes

UBC researchers demonstrate the impact of just one training session 

Research by UBC’s Okanagan’s Jonathan Little is demonstrating that high intensity interval training can help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Research by UBC’s Okanagan’s Jonathan Little is demonstrating that high intensity interval training can help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

We all know that pushing yourself through that intense cardio workout is good for your heart. But new research coming out of UBC’s Okanagan campus demonstrates that high intensity interval training (HIIT) can actually help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Studies by Assist. Prof. Jonathan Little, with UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, are among the first to show that HIIT impacts the inflammatory response seen in people with Type 2 diabetes and improves glucose levels in the blood.

“What our findings show is that HIIT can improve blood sugar and reduce inflammation at the level of individual cells in people with pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes,” says Little. “In addition to a proper diet, the evidence demonstrates that this style of exercise can be identified as a significant risk-reduction factor.”

Little’s research is supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institute of Health Research. He has also collaborated with the Canadian Diabetes Association webinar series. His latest webinar Why We Should Exercise strives to help people take the first, and often the hardest step inside the gym.

“As diabetes rates continue to increase in Canada and worldwide, education around prevention is key,” says Dr. Jan Hux, Chief Science Officer of the Canadian Diabetes Association. “It is encouraging to see research like this, which is aimed at overcoming the barriers people experience in making the lifestyle changes needed to reduce the risk of diabetes.”

HIIT burst into the workout scene a few years ago and is a novel form of time-efficient exercise involving short bursts of high intensity activity separated by short periods of rest. Research shows that HIIT can be adapted to people of all fitness levels.

Once thought of as an exercise strategy for athletes, Little’s research has adapted HIIT for people with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes and suggests that people may be more inclined to stick with HIIT as opposed to other types of exercise.

The majority of people participating in Little’s research walked briskly uphill or picked up the pace on an exercise portion in the high intensity portion of their workout. Participants typically followed a one-minute on, one-minute off protocol that was repeated between four to 10 times for a total workout time of between 15 to 20 minutes including warm up and cool down.

“Lack of time is the number one reason people cite for not engaging in regular exercise,” says Little. “People also do not tend to stick to an exercise regime that they do not enjoy. Beyond the evidence that people with Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes can do this type of time-efficient exercise and enjoy it, we are starting to see that they can stick to HIIT on their own, over longer terms outside of the lab.”

To learn more about Little’s research and the diabetes webinars, visit:

About diabetes

  • November is international diabetes month.
  • Today, there are more than 10 million Canadians living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association.
  • Diabetes is a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces.
  • Diabetes complications are associated with premature death. It is estimated that one in 10 deaths in Canadian adults was attributable to diabetes in 2008/09.
  • People with diabetes are three times more likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease.
  • Key findings by the International Diabetes Federation show that 415 million people worldwide have diabetes and that by 2035 this will rise to 592 million.


Acclaimed biologist promotes public appreciation for insects

Jeremy McNeilHave little critters been giving you the creepy crawlies? In an effort to shift your perspective towards insects, Dr. Jeremy McNeil, Biology Professor at Western University, will make the case about their crucial role in the planet’s ecosystem when he visits Okanagan College’s Vernon campus later this month.

McNeil encountered the knee-jerk fear reaction towards insects first hand when he showed his neighbours’ seven-year-old son a hornworm caterpillar from his garden. The young boy stared for a minute and then squashed it in the palm of his hand. When McNeil asked why he did that, the boy replied "Insects are not nice.”

This interaction sparked nearly four decades of public outreach, where McNeil has attempted not only to educate the public about insects (and hopefully reduce insecticide use) but also to instill a real appreciation for the natural world around us.  

Part of the Science in Society Speaker Series, his public talk titled Are humans really smarter than insects? will take place on Tuesday Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.  

In this talk, McNeil will draw comparisons between insects and humans to establish the fascinating common ground we share, such as making paper, building solar panels, as well as how both species apply the same physics principles used in snorkeling and scuba diving.

With a teaching career spanning over 40 years, McNeil alongside students and collaborators has published more than 180 papers in primary international journals and more than 10 book chapters. He has received many national and international awards (including the prestigious Humboldt Prize), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and this year he was named to the Order of Canada for his work in studying the reproductive biology in insects and for his dedication to increasing public appreciation of science.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets, please call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. For more information, visit www.okanagansisss.wordpress.com.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.

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