High school students throughout the Beaufort Delta Region will have the opportunity to acquire school credits by participating in an on-the-land science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) summer camp hosted in Fort McPherson from July 20 to 29.
The hands-on, land-based STEM fish harvesting camp will see more than 20 Inuvialuit and Gwich’in students in grades 7 through 12 work towards achieving high school credits by combining STEM research with traditional knowledge with the help of local and national educators.
“There was a great interest from Indigenous communities to have this done for credit. It makes a lot of sense,” said Lewis Cardinal, the manager of Actua’s InSTEM for-credit program.
The goal of the camp, he continued, is to introduce the world of STEM to Indigenous students in hopes that they will pursue a career in such fields in the future.
“We have a deficit in those areas right now as Indigenous people,” he said.
Actua is a national organization that delivers STEM programming and outreach to Canadian youth through various hands-on educational workshops. Cardinal said that this is the first year that the group is offering high school credits for on-the-land camps.
“The InSTEM instructors will draw in Indigenous undergraduate students in various fields. One is an engineering student, for an example. They’re going to be doing a number of different activities,” he said.
Activities include an introduction to GPS mapping, working with robotics, building weather stations, berry picking, medicine walks, working with Elders and more.
“They’re going to be setting their nets in the Peel River. They’ll be checking them two or three times a day. The students will be introduced to preparing fish, smoking fish, that sort of thing,” said Cardinal.
Fort McPherson is one of three Indigenous communities in Canada that will host such a camp this year, the other two being in Pelly Crossing, Yukon in August and Frog Lake, Alta. in September.
“We shape each camp so that the needs or what is identified by the Indigenous community is met. In this case, McPherson wanted to have a fish harvesting camp,” said Cardinal.
Students at the Pelly Crossing camp will focus on salmon research, while the Frog Lake camp will emphasize traditional teachings.
“The Elders in Frog Lake said that they want these kids – these next generations of kids – to be prepared with science, technology, so that they can be the ones to solve our water problems on the reserve,” said Cardinal. “They want their kids to learn the traditional value of water, but to also learn about science, monitoring and various things about water and the environment.”
In the end, he said that he hopes that students not only walk away with a stronger appreciation for their heritage and identity, but with a greater interest in STEM education.
“It really helps to build capacity with any Indigenous community if you have your own scientist or engineer,” he said. “You can do a lot more if you have the resources and the personnel capacity to help things move along.”