Scientist brings excitement to everyday observations

by Michael Erskine     MANITOWANING --- Watching Pierre Harrison deliver his presentation at the Assiginack Fall Fair on the wonders of science is a lot of fun, but watching the rapt attention sparkle in the eyes of his young audience, you quickly realize this is a person who delivers all the wonder and excitement of magic to the work of science.                                                  Mr. Harrison possesses wonderful scientific credentials, he earned an M.Sc. and a B.Ed. and has amassed over 17 years of experience in communicating science to a wide audience including Science North, The Ontario Science Centre and W5, a science centre in Northern Ireland.                                                                   He has recently settled in Sudbury, choosing Northern Ontario as his landing spot after a number of years traveling to New Zealand and Europe.  It was a decision he made after doing what good scientists do, a lot of research and some careful observation of his own goals and aspirations.                                                            "I wanted somewhere I could buy a good sized chunk of land to build on," he said "and still be able to afford to live."                                  Sudbury, or Wanup to be more scientifically accurate, filled the bill nicely.                             "I always wanted to do my own thing," said Mr. Harrison, "I decided to start my own educational consultancy, one that reflects my own commitment to life-long learning."           As he embarks on his life adventure with science, a lot of fun invariably pops up.  One fascinating project he was recently involved in was a collaborative effort based on the recent Mars missions, one on either side of the Atlantic.                                                                 One group was at a school in Baden, near Kitchener-Waterloo, and the other was in Bremen, Germany.                                              The students each created a typical Mars landscape in a Lego-building block type computer software, then they built a rover, and finally, using the Internet, each group navigated their 'rovers' over the other's landscape.                                                            We are all scientists, noted Mr. Harrison, in that we all observe the environment around us.  So many people, he points out, confuse technology with science.                              "Science asks the question 'Why?'", he said.  "Technology takes the science and applies it.  Science is just a curiosity."                                In delivering his workshop on science, Mr. Harrison doesn't rely on any "fancy-schmancy equipment."  In one demonstration he uses

Using three lemons and some red dye made of boiled cabbage, science guru Pierre Harrison shows Rachel Bondi how to fool the audience in a variation of three-lemon Monte.
by Erskine

simple red cabbage, boiled for a few minutes to release its colour into the water, to determine the acid or base properties of a liquid.              "Science is really just observation," he said.  "We can have a lot of fun observing science using simple stuff like toilet paper rolls, string, a plastic cup of water, all safe things you can find right at home."                            Mr. Harrison made his original Island debut at the Great Manitou Star Party, and Dark Skies Association President Rob Maguire brought the idea of bringing Mr. Harrison in as educational entertainment at the fair.  "This is a really nice-sized crowd," noted Mr. Harrison, who has delivered his workshop to crowds of 700 or more.  "With this size you can really work with the kids, get them in                                       

there one-on-one and answer their questions."                                        Mr. Harrison's workshops are tailored for a wide range of audiences, although he spends a fair bit of time in schools, he also has workshops for corporations and large companies.                                           The art of observation he noted is the prime element involved in science, and learning to open your eyes and see things from a different perspective is important in any occupation.                                      Judging from the fascination reflected in the eyes of many of the parents in the crowd, his message that science is fun may just have a universal appeal.                                Mr. Harrison can be contacted at pierre@playlearnthink.com.