Science and culture in Chesterfield Inlet

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More than 40 students and teachers from across the Kivalliq hit the water in the name of science during the annual Kivalliq Science Educator’s Community (KSEC) Science Camp in Chesterfield Inlet from Sept. 6 to 10.

The theme of this year’s camp was qajaqing and, in addition to nine regional science teachers, the event attracted volunteer instructors such as longtime Kivalliq (award-winning) science teacher Katharine O’Connell (who took personal vacation time from her position in North Bay to attend) and Agnico Eagle Mines program instructor Katelyn Proulx.

KSEC vice-president and science camp co-ordinator Glen Brocklebank of Victor Sammurtok School in Chester said KSEC always tries to have the same theme for two consecutive camps.

Science student Melanie Qaqqasig gathers plants for the perfect tea blend during the annual Kivalliq Science Educator's Community Science Camp in Chesterfield Inlet from Sept. 6-10, 2018. photo courtesy of Juamita Balhuizen
Science student Melanie Qaqqasig gathers plants for the perfect tea blend during the annual Kivalliq Science Educator’s Community Science Camp in Chesterfield Inlet from Sept. 6-10, 2018.
photo courtesy of Juamita Balhuizen

He said the annual event is slated to move on to Baker Lake for 2019 and 2020.

In addition to the qajaqing, our camp activities this year were first aid and learning the GPS (Global Positioning System),” said Brocklebank.

The entire region was represented this year, and it was great to have Whale Cove back after missing the past three years.

In reading through the student comments we have them leave with us every year, many of them were very nervous and afraid when they began the qajaqing portion of the program, but, by the end of the camp, they looked like they had been doing it for a lot more than four hours.

They were just an incredible group of students to work with this year,” said Brocklebank, before adding with a playful chuckle, “and some of them even said they’d rather stay in Chester and qajaq than return to their home community.”

Although this year’s gathering did include a few Grade 9 students, Brocklebank said the program is geared toward students in grades 10 to 12 because they earn a high school credit for participating in the camp.

He said this year’s event went through a major change compared to previous years in that the land-based camp had to be held in Victor Sammurtok School due to bear issues in the region.

We’ve had a lot of bear sightings in our community and, combined with the two deadly bear attacks our region has recently suffered, we decided to stay in the school and take day trips rather than actually stay out on the land during the camp.

The first thing the students did once they arrived and were settled, was to get into our cold water gear and life jackets and take a swimming test at Third Lake.

Their confidence grows a bit with the swimming test because they realize the wet suits do keep them dry and the life jackets do actually keep them afloat.

Following that we had an elder’s talk, with Louis Autut coming in for a couple of hours and sharing his knowledge on qajaqing, as well as qajaqs of the past.”

The visiting students were keenly interested in seeing the qajaqing artifacts that can be found on the land outside of Chester.

Brocklebank said the students still got to cook on Coleman stoves inside the school’s covered porch, and the camp ran smoothly with three groups taking qajaqing, first aid and GPS instruction simultaneously throughout the day.

He said the camp came to a close with a huge fireworks display for the students to enjoy.

We took about a 2.5-hour hike around the community on Sunday (Sept. 9) to look at all the qajaq stands and various artifacts from the past.

Then the students had to draw them and try to figure out which were a fish cache or a fox trap, and which ones were winter qajaq stands and which ones were meant for the summer.

On Sunday afternoon the students took our big GPS Challenge, which had elements of first aid, setting-up a tent, lighting a stove and boiling water, getting a lantern going and putting on the qajaqing gear.

The top group completed the challenge in about an hour and 45 minutes, with the others taking about two hours and 15 minutes, he said.

Brocklebank said holding the camp inside will probably become the new norm, unfortunately, especially camps held along the cost, but student safety is of paramount concern with the rising bear threat in the region.

He said there is hope, however, that the students will be able to stay in tents for next year’s camp focusing on rocks and minerals in Baker Lake.

This camp and the science fair are KSEC’s two flagship programs, and the comments from teachers – both new and returning – and students this year were overwhelmingly positive – which is extremely encouraging moving forward under our official motto of ‘powered by imagination’ and our unofficial motto of ‘powered by human resources,’” said Brocklebank.

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