York University delivers a little lecture about a big problem

Who: York University and Ogilvy.

What: “The World’s Smallest Lecture Hall,” a miniature model of a York University lecture hall made mostly from plastics pulled from Lake Ontario. The little lecture hall delivers a big message about tiny pollutants posing a huge environmental risk.

When & Where: The installation is in live now through the end of October, with awareness being raised through York’s social channels and some influencer outreach.

Why: With the increased use of plastics over the years, microplastic pollutants have been seeping into the ecosystem, where they’re ingested by animals and end up in human diets.

It’s a very troubling environmental problem, and one that York University is tackling as part of its efforts to explore environmental policies that will benefit all Canadians.

The installation is a way to remind people of the problem itself, and how York U is working to solve it.

How: The little lecture hall is a meticulous recreation of an actual York University theatre-style lecture hall, with tiny chairs, a tiny screen and even tiny people—including one modelled after Ogilvy account executive Subhat Ehsan (see her 3D model below). The tiny lecturer at the front of the room is Shooka Karimpour, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering. By scanning a QR code, people can get an actual “micro-lecture” from Karimpour about the microplastics problem.

The installation may be small, but it can have a big impact, said Gavin Drummond, co-chief creative officer at Ogilvy Canada.

“People are asked to ‘care’ about so many social and environmental issues. But the truth is, most of us have only so much attention to give,” said Drummond. “If you approach someone in a way that’s unexpected and intriguing, though, they will open up. They invest their time, and they will pass it on.

“It’s not the Micro Lecture Hall that’s going to solve the problem. It’s the students who will absorb what we’re saying, and go out in the world to create change.”

And we quote: “Students today are technically savvy in using technology, and I applaud York for using state of the art technology to try to send this intricate message across… As professors, we can get lost in the scientific language, and sometimes our research does not translate to the public. This is an innovative way to fill the gap.” —Shooka Karimpour, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, York University

David Brown