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‘On the land and in the lab’

Labrador Institute hosts science-based summer camp

By Jeff Green

A unique science summer camp is helping to inspire Innu and Inuit youth to explore science-based discovery and careers.

For the second year in a row, the Labrador Lands and Waters Science Camp was held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the Upper Lake Melville area.

Meredith Purcell and Phoenix Hay. Ms. Purcell, who works with Torngat Secretariat, demonstrates how you can determine a moose’s age by examining its teeth.
From left, Meredith Purcell, who works with Torngat Secretariat, demonstrates to Phoenix Hay how to determine a moose’s age by examining its teeth.
Photo: Submitted

The camp is developed in partnership with the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, the Nunatsiavut Government, the NunatuKavut Community Council, the Innu Nation and the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat.

Students in Grades 8-11 learn more about future science pathways and decreasing barriers to science learning experienced in remote and Northern locations.

During the week-long camp, held in June, participants received hands-on science training through interdisciplinary programming centred on Labrador-based research in plant ecology, archaeology, marine ecology, wildlife monitoring and management, mosquito research and traditional ecological knowledge.

‘Exciting pathways’

“It is so inspiring to witness the ways in which the young people integrate the knowledge they have from their parents, grandparents and ancestors about the lands, waters and plants and animals of Labrador, with what they learn from the leaders and different approaches to science,” said Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director of the Labrador Institute.

From left: Philip Snow and Melody Lampe participating in a mock archaeology excavation. The students excavated three one-by-one metre excavation units to determine where the ancestors of the Innu and Inuit had been located 3,000 years ago.
From left, Philip Snow and Melody Lampe participate in a mock archaeology excavation.
Photo: Submitted

“The ways in which multiple knowledge systems come together in this camp, through the leadership and enthusiasm of Inuit and Innu youth, demonstrates many exciting pathways for the future in Labrador, both on the land and in the lab. It is an honour to work with the youth, our partners and the many knowledge holders that contribute to this camp to support science learning, in all its forms, for Indigenous youth in Labrador.”

The Labrador Institute received a total of $93,000 in funding over three years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) PromoScience Program for this year’s camp.

The funding went toward science materials, supplies, food, travel for elders and facilitating the accessibility of the camp.

‘Knowledge is key’

Organizers say participants appreciated the various programming and the opportunity to learn more about science.

“This camp is a great opportunity for youth like me to experience, educate and learn,” said Samantha Saksagiak, a student participant from Nain.

From left: Samantha Saksagiak, Natasha Healey and Samira Kohlmeister. Here we see Ms. Healey, a Memorial student who works with the CLEAR Lab, showing youth how to identify microplastics found on the surface of the water during her “Babylegs” module.
From left are Samantha Saksagiak and Natasha Healey. Ms. Healey, a Memorial student who works with the CLEAR Lab, is showing participants how to identify microplastics found on the surface of the water.
Photo: Submitted

“I got to study moose jaw bones, gut and cook partridges, observe rainbow smelt, collect and press plants, learn about micro-plastic impact . . . I can go on and on about all the things this camp had to offer. The group of youth and co-ordinators pulled off a great project and I hope that this get-together will go on. I’d encourage anyone who can take this opportunity to apply.”

“Knowledge is key when it comes to science,” added Phillip Snow, a student participant from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “The science camp is more fun than you’d think.”

Scientific self discovery

Clifford Paul, a Mi’kmaw elder and two-eyed seeing leader from Unama’ki/Cape Breton who is in his second year working with the camp, says the camp offered some incredible opportunities for the young people to learn about the conventions of two-eyed seeing and applying them in practical, highly applicable ways.

He also says they brought with them the will and knowledge of their ancestors and that, through the modules, were able to express multiple interpretations, and intelligences, in their work.

“It was so inspiring to see them share their stories, their wonderful gifts of expression and the insightful means of their own self-discovery, in that they fully understood the value of their traditional wisdom and applying it with scientific knowledge styles,” said Mr. Paul. “I am very proud of them in so many ways. Congratulations on the great success of this camp – the value of which is indeed immeasurable!”

NSERC’s PromoScience program offers financial support for non-profit organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering, including mathematics and technology.

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