Science in Space: How to Telescope is an informal science learning program co-founded in 2022 by the Trottier Space Institute, McGill Physics, and Dell Technologies/Girls Who Game. The program is aimed at girls and students of marginalised genders in STEM between the ages of 10 and 14 (grades 5-8). Science in Space is designed to mitigate girls' attrition from STEM by fostering a sense of belonging and community, thus increasing student engagement and confidence in using STEM to tackle real-world problems. Over the course of 10 weeks, students design and build telescopes in Minecraft with the guidance of graduate student mentors (who themselves identify as memebrs of marginalised groups in STEM). The program is inquiry-based and student driven; students ultimately decide which astronomical phenomena they’d like to study and design a telescope to do so. In the first half of the program, facilitators and mentors deliver the basics of astronomy through game-based activities, giving the students the foundation they need to tackle the design of the telescope in the second half. Through this program, students gain familiarity with observational astronomy, develop collaborative project design skills, and gain a sense of community in STEM. Students not only develop a community within their own school network, but also within the larger Montreal area with graduate and undergraduate student mentors who support the girls in developing their project and act as role models.
Science in Space has so far been a resounding success, with no attrition over its first two years, an increase of 50% in participation from 2022 to 2023, and a significantly increased sense of community from the students. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.scienceinspace.ca/