Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
July 15, 2000 - Issue 14

Nunavik Students Learn Science the Fun Way
By Jane George Nunatsiaq News

What do lego, paper airplanes, and claymation cartoons have in common?

Some lucky Nunavik high school students can tell you that they're all neat ways to learn about science — and have fun at the same time.

The Kativik School Board recently wound up its annual science camp, held this year in Kangiqsualujjaq. The two weeks of camp - the first week in English and the second week in French - drew approximately 40 boys and girls from every community in Nunavik.

"They were able to use a second language and learn science, to have fun with science, and now they'll go back to their community, and be able show others what they know," said the KSB’s Bob Turner, the camp's chief organizer.

The students, who came from Secondary One to Four classes (the equivalent of Grades 7 to 10 outside Quebec), were chosen for the camp on the basis of their interest, class attendance, and other criteria set by their communities or schools.

But at camp, Turner said, no one pegs the kids according to their performance at school.

"They realize they can be anything they want to be when they're here," Turner said.

The theme of the camp was "Current Events," and many activities looked at the different science fields related to movement.

Each student had to chose one concentration or "Stream." In the Lego Stream, participants designed rear-wheel drive vehicles powered by crank-generated electricity.

The Video Stream looked at digital imagery and other techniques used in filmmaking. In "Flying Vehicles" kids learned how to use thrust, gravity, and lift to make a better paper airplane.

Those in the Environment Stream made enclosed cross-sections of land, so that they could see how water and other liquids move down through the layers.

This group's activity, according to Turner, was less showy than some others, but at the Science Fair that capped the end of each camp, its results generated a lot of interest.

"It was great to hear the kids explaining to people in the community what they had been doing — in Inuttitut," Turner said.

During the camps, shorter workshops were also offered. There was one on avalanches, in which students created their own mini-avalanches out of mashed potatoes, oatmeal, flour, and water.

They also toured the nearby site of the disastrous Jan. 1 avalanche in Kangiqsualujjuaq.

"It was a way of processing this event, too," Turner said.

The students all tried their hand at prospecting, although "to our chagrin, no one found any gold." Rénald Gauthier, the technical director at the Nunavik Mineral Exploration Fund, had spoken to the students beforehand about the region's geology and mining techniques.

"Some didn't really see the sense of all this information, but when they went out to the stream and began to look for rocks, they began to understand," Turner said.

In addition to the science activities, the campers also had time for group recreation. According to Turner, the "silliness factor" was important in helping everyone to have a good time, and use their second language in an informal setting.

During the camp, Turner said nobody complained, nobody wanted to go home, and there were no discipline problems at all.

The science camp used to be held in the South, and this was the second time the English session took place in Nunavik — and the first time for the French.

"It's built an expectation," Turner said. "Many kids were asking, "where's next year's camp going to be?"

The camp, organized with a pan-Canadian group that provides guidance for science camps across the country, recruits university students as instructors who also double as "good role models."

This year there were around 15 staff and counselors. Several former campers also returned this year as junior counselors.

Turner hopes their involvement, and the success of this year's experience, will contribute to the science camp's future. He'd like to see the camp expand, and include students who are also at risk of dropping out, too.

The camp, which costs around $130,000 to mount, receives support from the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik Regional Development Council, First Air and Air Inuit.

Turner said he devotes five months a year to the camp's organization, and to save on expenses, he also doubles as camp chef, whipping up a different country's specialities every night for dinner.


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