About DIY.org

CFI Okanagan’s Kids for Inquiry program uses the DIY.org website.

DIY.org is a website that helps kids learn skills of many different kinds, and share their work with others. It’s easy to use. With a parent’s help, kids sign up to the website. They do not use real names and do not provide any private information. An adult account is associated with each child, so you can see what your child uploads and also make sure that they do not share any information that should be kept private. The adult has to provide confirmation of their own identity, using a credit card (which is not charged).

Kids choose a skill they’d like to work on. Let’s say they choose the Astronomer skill. Each skill has a number of different challenges associated with it.

The kids then decide which of the different challenges they’d like to try. Some of them can be done at home (with or without parental help); some they can do at a KFI gathering. In May, for example, KFI collaborated with the Royal Astronomical Society to make solar viewers and sundials — while learning about the related science.

When the kids have completed each challenge, they take a photo or video and upload it to the website to share it with the world! When they’ve completed three challenges associated with a skill, they earn a patch for that skill. (Sew-on patches can be purchased at the DIY Market for $4 each, plus shipping.) They can, of course, go to complete more challenges.

The skills at DIY.org are very varied; there is something for everyone — IllustratorCamperWriter,Sailor… They even have a Philosopher patch! KFI focuses on the science-related skills, such asPhysicistBotanistEntomologistMeteorologist. However, plenty of the other skills and challenges lend themselves to learning about science too. The Bake a Loaf challenge provides an opportunity to learn about chemical reactions; the Meditation challenge provides an opportunity to learn about the brain; the Develop Strength challenge provides an opportunity to learn about the physiology of muscles.

As well as learning about science, and engaging in projects and experiments, it’s great for kids to realize that science doesn’t happen only in the lab. Scientific thinking can be applied to the world all around them!

Kids For Inquiry Canada

IMG_0256Kids for Inquiry was founded in June 2012 by then 8 year old Ben Ryder who heard about all the interesting things that the Okanagan branch of CFI Canada was doing and he thought that kids should have a CFI group especially for them — and so KFI was born!

We at CFI Canada would like to see Kids for Inquiry eventually spread to all branches of CFI Canada. It’s an important way for us to fulfil our educational mission.

In the experience of the Okanagan branch, KFI attracts a broad range of families, in addition to the children of CFI supporters and members. Most significantly, KFI has attracted families who would otherwise be uninterested in CFI activities. For example, one family that frequently attends KFI Okanagan activities are devout Catholics. The parents are uninterested in CFI activities for themselves, but they do support their children’s interest in science. In another family, the parents own an alternative medicine clinic, and they are not interested in CFI activities for themselves — but, again, they support their children’s interest in science. In cases such as these, we hope that KFI is a positive contribution to these kids’ science education and critical thinking skills.

Kids for Inquiry focuses on science and skepticism. Importantly, we stay away from religious topics. This is for a number of reasons. We don’t want to alienate parents who might otherwise want to get their families involved. Religious parents simply wouldn’t bring their kids! We think it’s more important that we excite a child’s interest in science and contribute to their critical thinking skills, than that we make what is bound to be a vain attempt to challenge their family’s religious beliefs. We also don’t think we should be putting children in the uncomfortable position of having their family’s religious beliefs challenged by strangers, when children are not in a position to fully evaluate those religious beliefs. If, however, their critical thinking skills are transferable — from evaluating the evidence for the existence of Big Foot to evaluating the evidence for the existence of God — that would be a positive “side effect”. We do hope that, one day, we will be able to set up a Teens for Inquiry group, and we think that religious topics will be fair game for that age group.

We try to keep our KFI events as low cost as possible (usually free, with donations gratefully accepted) in order to make sure that kids from low income families are able to attend. Please help us to spread the word to engage families in your community!

LGTBQ people not welcome at BC law school

Last summer, Trinity Western University, a private liberal-arts school in B.C. applied to have its law school accredited by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. Controversy arose within the legal and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities because all students, staff and faculty at the school must adhere to a covenant in which they  agree not to engage in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

So what’s the harm, you may ask?  Why shouldn’t a private university be able to set standards of behaviour for its students?  How will anyone else suffer?  Well, according to lawyer Clayton Ruby, the covenant in effect creates a “queer quota” in university law schools. Trinity Western law school would add 60 to the 3,547 slots Canadian universities currently have allocated for first-year law students. But, as Ruby says, “If you’re queer, you can’t apply to the extra 60 seats… We find that just to be anathema.”

Read the rest of the Globe and Mail article, here

Read the editorial, here

Read Canadian Atheist’s commentary, here.

Check out No Queer Quota – For Equality in Legal Education on Facebook

Whether marching in Pride parades, defending GSAs in Ontario, speaking out against troublesome legislation or providing educational programs across the country, CFI’s valuable work needs your generous support. Please click here to donate or join as a friend of the Centre for Inquiry–Canada.

Ask the “religion experts” – a secular humanist perspective

Kevin Smith, chair of the board of CFI Canada, is a member of a panel of “religion experts”  for a weekly column  in the Ottawa Citizen

Here’s an excerpt from Kevin’s response to the question for the week of 20 July which asks: Why should we take the advice of so-called religious experts?

No advice from a self-professed religious expert should be taken as gospel when it violates human equality. It is imperative that we criticize those who call homosexuals intrinsically disordered or treat women as second-class citizens.

Read more here, and check back next week for updates on the latest column.

Special Event

CFI Okanagan is collaborating with Okanagan College’s Department of Geography and Earth & Environmental Science for this event.

Okanagan College Lecture Theatre (S104), 1000 KLO Rd.

7pm, Wednesday 21st August

This event is free to paid-up members of CFI Canada, $5 to the general public.

About the presentation:

Late Cretaceous amber recovered from the Grassy Lake locality in southern Alberta provides an important and remarkably diverse collection of fossil inclusions from approximately 78 million years ago. With the recent resurgence in work on this material, many new insects have been discovered, and we have also gained a better understanding of the amber-producing forest that existed at the time. Rare inclusions of minute feather fragments have also provided one of the most complete snapshots of plumage diversity, structure and colouration available for the Mesozoic. Although tiny, these inclusions appear to represent feathers indistinguishable from those of modern birds, alongside simple ‘protofeathers’ that may have belonged to dinosaurs.


About the presenter:

Ryan McKellar is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Kansas, and a Sessional Lecturer at the University of Alberta. He was educated at the U of A, with degrees spanning a range of palaeontological topics including: vertebrate palaeontology, particularly theropod dinosaurs (B.Sc.); invertebrate palaeontology, specifically the Devonian phacopid trilobites of Morocco (M.Sc.); and palaeoentomology (Ph.D.). His doctoral dissertation dealt with inclusions in Canadian amber. The main focus of this work was parasitic Hymenoptera (microscopic wasps) in amber, but work on the deposit permitted the study of a number of other insect groups, along with unique inclusions, such as feather fragments. In addition to studying amber inclusions, Dr. McKellar has been involved in the use of Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and stable isotope analyses of amber, in an effort to characterize various amber deposits. Combined with amber inclusions, this line of research has provided a more comprehensive picture of source trees in amber-producing forests, as well as some of the ecological conditions at the time of amber production.

Dr. McKellar is currently involved in an effort to expand the number of inclusion-bearing amber deposits being studied within western Canada, as well as research on a broad range of arthropod groups. Ongoing amber research will provide a more comprehensive record of insect evolution, palaeo-forests, and terrestrial conditions throughout the Late Cretaceous and into the Paleocene. Alberta offers one of the most complete records throughout this time interval, as well as the opportunity to study amber in direct association with dinosaur remains

A Huffington Post article about some of Dr. McKellar’s research: