A group of 12 students from grades nine through 11 at Victor Sammurtok School had a unique opportunity with the arrival of a pair of Winnipeg scientists in Chesterfield Inlet earlier this month.
“They asked if we’d be interested in going out and doing some sampling with them…and I indicated that we most certainly would,” said science teacher Glen Brocklebank.
The University of Manitoba scientists Alessia Guzzi and Michelle Kamula had been to Chester on previous occasions and their most recent visit was to conduct research on the sea ice, and water salinity and temperature.
Students helped take ice-core samples and look for algae while out on the land with the scientists.
Brocklebank said they helped pull out the cores, drop and retrieve the devices that measure water temperature and salinity, looked at the ice algae and talked a little about biology and where the fish are now around Chester and what they’re doing.
“It was cool because we were actually doing field research,” said Brocklebank. “We actually went out with scientists and did the things we read about in the textbook.”
“I loved it,” he added. “This experience was incredibly beneficial to the students.”
Brocklebank said the scientists made the school group do the ice-core sampling by hand and that everyone in the group took a turn spinning the manual drill.
The scientists’ work fit in with the student’s Science 20 curriculum on marine systems, which focuses on the ocean, he said.
“We did a lot of in-depth stuff on water beforehand, which put us way ahead of the concepts they talked to us about in a presentation they made before we went out on the land,” said Brocklebank. “So we already knew the science behind the tests they were going to conduct out there, and then we got to go out and actually do them.”
There are a couple of strategies going on right now that are encouraging Inuit youth to get involved in the sciences. Brocklebank said he’s been working with the Kivalliq Science Educators’ Community and several federal departments that have been working together to promote the subject.
“But this was no longer an abstract concept with our group – actually having two scientists in front of us who are sharing what their research is about, and then actually getting to go and see it,” he said. “This is something real that we can touch. We can listen to the scientists, watch what they’re doing and then talk to them.”
The scientists were patient and thorough in answering all the student’s questions to explain what they were trying to do with their research. The fact that they were female was also a benefit to the students in showing that there are no gender barriers in scientific research, said Brocklebank.
“I hope every school has a chance like this because it’s really exciting. It’s taking what you’re supposed to do in the curriculum, and then actually adding the human and physical elements,” he said. “There were also things the kids said in the class that the scientists didn’t know, and things they said that we didn’t know, so I found the sharing of Western understanding and traditional knowledge about what’s going on quite interesting.”
“I could see links developing that I didn’t expect to happen – the fact char and seal caught around Naujaat taste better for example – which really got the students more interested in what was being discussed.”