Leevan Harper of St. Theresa Point, and Matthew Monias and Waylon Harper of Garden Hill are the Canada-Wide Science Fair finalists of the inaugural Island Lake Science Fair.
St. Theresa Point High, George Knott School (Wasagamack) and the Garden Hill First Nation schools participated in the science fair organized by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) under the theme “Preserving and Recycling the Gifts of the Earth.”
Leevan’s research “Spices are the Powerful Healers of Tomorrow” focused on using plants like garlic, turmeric and ginger to address health concerns such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, all common illnesses in his community. He impressed the judges with his meticulously researched presentation and depth of knowledge on the subject matter.
“I wanted to know how we can use herbs and spices to prevent certain diseases,” he said. “I don’t like to see people suffer so I became interested in affordable ways to prevent diseases like cancer.”
Both Matthew and Waylon brought a unique perspective to the event. Matthew is legally blind while Waylon is paralyzed. Despite their disabilities, the duo’s presentation on sound resonated with the judges.
“I’m blind and I rely on sound a lot, so it was easy to do a project based on sound,” said Matthew. “Waylon is my eyes and I’m his legs, so together we make a great team.”
“Everything on earth has a purpose, every disease a herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian Theory of Existence.” This quote by famous Native American author Mourning Dove (Christal Quintasket) aptly describes these finalists and their presentations at the science fair.
The finalists will exhibit their research at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Regina in May of this year. Organizers hope to make the Island Lake Science Fair an annual event. Plans are already on-going to invite more than six schools in 2018.
Here’s what some of the organizers, attendees and participants had to say about the Island Lake Science Fair:
“In the Island Lake region, there are four very large communities and collectively there is a student population of over 4000. Given the difficulties with travel, in any given year most schools can only afford to bring about four or five students to the provincial MFNERC Science Fair in Winnipeg. So establishing this fair provides an opportunity for a large number of students to come together to exhibit their work. Both students and teachers learn from these experiences.” –Rudy Subedar, Science Fair Coordinator
“Our students are able to participate in a larger capacity when we have a regional exercise like this. It’s always a challenge to send students out to the provincial science fair but a regional science fair like this benefits many more students. I’m very thankful that MFNERC was able to bring this event here. I can see that the students are having a lot of fun. They will be fostering friendlier, positive relationships within our region and that’s what we need.” –Raymond Flett, St. Theresa Point Band Councillor
“Science allows you to work with your First Nations people. Because we have our own knowledge systems, we can work with our Elders, with our healers and our spiritual people, and we can learn about the environment from our perspective and combine that with Science or in conjunction with Science to come up with solutions for everyday problems. So it’s very important that we get our youth and we encourage them to get involved in the Science field.” –Stewart L. Hill, Scientist & Science Fair Judge
“The science fair motivates the students and brings out the gifts that the Creator has given them. The Creator has given all these children gifts and when we work with them with these hands-on activities, it brings forth their gifts.” –Marcella McCorrister, Assistant Director of Programs
“I am very impressed with this first science fair in island lakes. You can see that the student put a lot of effort into their presentations. We have been dreaming about the possibility of having science fairs in different communities. This is just the beginning. The Island Lakes Science Fair is just the starting point.”-Rosely Booth, Science Facilitator
“This is healing me. I’m healed when I see the children learning and asking questions. They are learning lots of things. They are going to remember these activities when they get old. They are going to tell their children.”-Elder Celine Taylor, Island Lake Region
MFNERC commends all of the teachers, students, staff, parents, community leaders and Elders who worked tirelessly to make the inaugural Island Lake Science Fair a success.
Here’s a video recap of the science fair.