Science Odyssey 2019: Code, Create & Celebrate Clean Water!

Fusing the UN’s Global Goals with coding to raise awareness about the importance of clean water and the safety of marine life

Katherine Lissitsa
4 June 2019

When May comes around every year, we know one thing’s for certain: We want to be part of Science Odyssey. As a national celebration of STEAM, we are always excited to take part in the festivities and introduce coding to kids across Canada. And while most years we focused on improving technical skills in a fun way, this year we’re adding a new element — caring for the environment.

A Canadian campaign, Science Odyssey aims to show just how engaging science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics can be to inspire people of all ages from coast to coast to coast. And because Canada is outlined by three coastlines and is home to the Great Lakes, we at KCJ considered it important to focus on a fundamental part of not only Canada, but the world: water.

Keeping water clean and free of pollution is key to sustaining a healthy environment for both people and marine life. And although this might seem like common knowledge, these notions have now become part of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development: #6 Clean Water and Sanitation and #14 Life Below Water. The former focuses on ensuring that all people have access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water, as well as equitable access to sanitation and hygiene. And the former hones in on protecting our oceans and seas by reducing marine pollution and overfishing.

We firmly stand by these goals, as they align with #kids2030 — an initiative that encourages youth to use technology for the global, greater good. So for this year’s Science Odyssey, we wanted to raise awareness about the water-related Global Goals and the importance of protecting the environment through none other than coding.

Our free workshops titled "Code, Create & Celebrate Clean Water!" invited kids all over the country to code an animation in Scratch about what covers 70% of our planet. The challenge here is to make the hero of the animation swim around and pick up trash that unfortunately ended up in the ocean, such as a taco, a pair of shoes and a takeout container. By clearing the water of what is polluting it, the player will reach the ultimate goal: making sure that the water is clean!

To inspire as many kids as possible to become environmental champions, we took our workshops to libraries, science centres and museums in 10 Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Charlottetown, Calgary, St. John’s, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Quebec City. Through the project, we wanted to show kids and their parents that coding isn’t just a useful skill in terms of personal development, but that it can be applied in the context of solving real world problems.

Looking at the environment through a technological lens also shows how multidisciplinary coding can be. Coding can be used to create games, it can be used to tell stories, but it can also be used to educate oneself about global concerns such as the poor state of today’s waterways.

So we sincerely hope that those who attend our Science Odyssey workshops have fun, experiment, and most importantly, learn about the environment and how to help it!