MFNERC Student Wins Bronze Medal at Canada-Wide Science Fair!

On behalf of the Resource Centre and MFNSS, we congratulate Dexter Mentuck from the Donald Ahmo School in Crane River for his outstanding achievements at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. Dexter’s innovative project, “The Hydrating Power of Bear Grease Bath Bombs,” earned him two prestigious awards: a Bronze Medal in the Junior Category and the First Nations University of Canada Award.

Dextor says he was excited and nervous to be a part of the event. “It took me about a week to finish this project, and it required a lot of testing, especially on the bath bombs.”

Dexter’s project explored the hydrating properties of bear grease when incorporated into bath bombs, highlighting an innovative approach to natural skincare. This impressive research demonstrated scientific rigour and showcased Dexter’s commitment to utilizing traditional knowledge in modern applications. His success at the Canada-Wide Science Fair is a testament to his creativity, hard work, and dedication.

Congratulations, Dexter! Your hard work, dedication, and innovative spirit are truly inspiring. Keep shining and making a difference, Dexter—the future is yours to shape!


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The symposium will take place February 21-22, 2024 at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park.

Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy (MALS) was created to promote, revitalize, and support Aboriginal Languages throughout Manitoba. Ancestral knowledge, as carried in our languages, songs, stories, community histories, and other key practices and customs, connect and bridge generations. The languages of First Nations, Métis and Inuit teach us about who we are as a people. Language creates a strong connection from the past to the present and helps shape Indigenous identity. We recognize the importance of land and the role that the land plays in connecting to our language and history. We also recognize that learning can take place beyond the walls of a classroom.

We invite an interactive approach to share language and welcome individual workshop sessions that may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aboriginal writing systems
  • Teaching language in the digital age
  • Language apps
  • Teacher apprenticeships & Aboriginal language immersion programming
  • Local initiatives & best practices
  • Grandparents and our languages
  • Teaching Aboriginal languages
  • Community based Aboriginal languages programs
  • Language and the Land
  • Language program models
  • Language Resources
  • Stories, songs, and teachings
  • Sharing research and policy related to Aboriginal languages

We invite Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators, students and other interested community members to this year’s conference.

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To: MFNERC High School Teachers and their classrooms

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2024

Location: Microsoft Teams

Time: 10:00AM – 11:00AM

We invite you to join us in the excitement surrounding the release of MFNERC’s very own Rachel Beaulieu’s upcoming documentary, “A Cup of Cold Water.” This compelling film explores a significant narrative that echoes through history. It follows the remarkable journey of Alfred Kirkness, an advocate for the final resting places of former residential school students.

Long before this issue made headlines, Alfred Kirkness was an advocate, championing the dignity and respect of the final resting places of former students. His determined efforts, captured in “A Cup of Cold Water,” not only exposed the neglected condition of the cemeteries at the Brandon Residential School site but also ignited a worldwide recognition of this issue, underlining the far-reaching impact of his advocacy.

To Register for the screening, please click on the link below ⬇️

https://events.teams.microsoft.com/event/88ce7e57-d9db-41a9-9bb9-022be65bdf6a@1aec7176-66da-4b90-ace5-598755438554

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MET Number is a unique identifier assigned to each student upon registration with Manitoba Education for record-keeping purposes. This number remains the same from kindergarten to Grade 12 and is different from any student number assigned by a local school division.

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On November 8th, 2023, the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre was presented with the inaugural National Indigenous STEM Award for excellence in advancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in First Nations schools by award sponsor Let’s Talk Science.

The award was presented at the First Nations Education Administrators Association (FNEAA) conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg. Let’s Talk Science president and founder, Bonnie Schmidt, appeared virtually during the award ceremony, saying, “We are pleased to sponsor this year’s award to the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, recognizing their excellence in Indigenous STEM and supporting First Nations schools through their programs, services and science fairs.”

The National Indigenous STEM Award was handed to the Resource Centre’s executive director, Charles Cochrane, by the provincial Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning, Nello Altomare, who stated, “I was honoured to join Tammy Webster, Director of Equity with Let’s Talk Science, to present the National Indigenous STEM Award to the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre at the FNEAA conference this year. This award recognizes the organization’s excellence in advancing Indigenous STEM initiatives in First Nations schools throughout the Province.”

The Minister has also acknowledged the importance of the Resources Centre’s work in bringing STEM education to First Nations schools.

“Ensuring First Nations schools have access to STEM education is so important. STEM education provides students with knowledge in core subjects of sciences and math, as well as important skills that will serve them well in any career path. As the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning, it is my goal to ensure every student in Manitoba has the resources they need to succeed. I am grateful to organizations like Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre for the excellent work they are doing, and I look forward to continuing to work in partnership to expand opportunities for First Nations students across Manitoba,” Minister Altomare says.

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Recently, the MFNSS held a Minecraft Design Challenge at the RBC Convention Centre as part of the Esports program.

In teams of 3-4, First Nations students from MFNSS schools designed and built interconnected themed escape rooms that featured problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The winning team, from the Sargeant Tommy Prince School, constructed a replica of a residential school, complete with signposts and teachings and a graveyard respecting past generations. The winning game held numerous challenges that forced a player to interact with the map and learn about the history while problem-solving to escape to the next room.

During the eSports challenge, students were asked to blend game-like elements into their builds (find the button, pressure plates, red stone contraptions, lava traps, platformers, and more!). It also played on students’ design process, as they needed to play through their builds and test their game elements to ensure they worked, set spawn points so that the player knew the starting and endpoints, and each room needed to increase in difficulty. Furthermore, the creative mode map students were utilizing borrowed the resource/behaviour packs from the Manito Ahbee Aki map, which meant they could search their inventory for things like the 7 Sacred Teachings animals, local wildlife and vegetation, place teepees, NPC’s dressed in traditional clothing, and craft birch bark canoes.

The MNP accounting firm sponsored a lunch for students and chaperones, the MESA (Manitoba Esports Association) sponsored the venue at the RBC Convention Centre through a provincial grant, and Comicon gave all of the students and staff free passes to Comicon. Tourism Winnipeg also attended the event, wanting to highlight the MFNSS event and position Wpg as an Esports destination in Canada.

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We recently held the first Youth Land-based Numeracy Fair, hosted by the MFNERC Numeracy Team and supported by Language and Culture facilitators, at St Vital Park in Winnipeg. The land-based activities aimed to provide a culturally responsive education, connect to numeracy concepts, and develop math skills in a fun learning environment. Over 50 students from a number of First Nations schools took part in some land-based learning as well as lessons relating to language, numeracy, science, and much more. Here are just a few photos from that great day of fun and learning.

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Taking part in science fairs can transform a life. 

The Resource Centre’s Science and Technology facilitator, Alberto Mansilla, has seen the impact that submitting an experiment for a science fair and then presenting their work to others has had on students across the province. 

“It builds their self-confidence, which can make such an impact in their future. One hundred per cent of the time, even if they are not recognized at the end, there is that building up of confidence in that student. When they come back, they are different.” 

Mansilla explains the process of taking part in the science fair includes so many elements of a student’s learning experience that it cannot help but have an effect and benefits for both students and teachers. He says at schools served by the Resource Centre and the Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS), the process starts with students looking around at their local environment and gaining a better understanding that everyone is a part of the world around them. 

“It starts with the work plan, which is focused on project-based and place-based learning. We want them to study their own environment and study the ecosystems around them—the trees around them, the animals, the plants, and the climate. Due to the place-based learning, they become conscious of being part of the environment around them, which is the idea behind the First Nations Education Framework. We want them to develop a respect for their environment and for their Elders. For them to be able to give gratitude for what makes them alive, what gives them life.” 

Creating a science fair project touches on numerous skills and subjects, including written and verbal communication; math skills like graph-making or statistical analysis; and, of course, science and the scientific method. Mansilla says it starts with the student looking around their First Nation and identifying a challenge or process they want to resolve or better understand.  

“Students will look for a problem, very near to their heart, that they want to solve, which then becomes the introduction and the background of their project. They’ll use their English studies or their own First Nations language to develop that. Then, a question arises: What do they want to do to better understand the issue? So, the phrasing of the hypothesis and the statistical analysis comes in. And then, the methodology and the critical thinking: How would they solve this problem? They must come up with a plan and an experiment. And, once they have the results of the experiment, they’ll be introduced to mathematical concepts like graphs, tables, and comparable analysis.” 

Mansilla says there is a thread that goes through the making of the science fair project that flows through the entire Manitoba science curriculum, including Cluster 0, which includes scientific inquiry and the design process. The students are also expected to create a bibliography and acknowledgments so they better understand that today’s science, like so many things in life, is built on the work of others who have gone on before. 

“The science fair project is a series of activities that will really awaken their scientific ability, and the focus is not on the competition, it’s about participation, but the science fair can also develop the competitive self. It introduces the idea of the student building up their confidence, so they can provide a proper and effective presentation. Every time a child presents at the science fair, we are so conscious that all this is taking place. All of this is embedded into that simple activity of the science project. All the curriculum is in there, everything.” 

While Mansilla insists the science fair is not about competition, he does admit a student winning the science fair can get everyone involved with the local school excited. He tells the story of one school within MFNSS that was not putting forward any projects. The Resource Centre’s staff went to the school asking how they could support them in developing student interest in participating. Eventually, the teacher asked all their students to submit an idea for an experiment based on local concerns. This led to a few students submitting projects for consideration, including one Grade 12 student who hand-wrote the explanations on their presentation board. Due to the hand-written notes, their potential experiment was overlooked, but the Resource Centre supervisor encouraged the science facilitator to go back and take another look. In the end, the student’s project was chosen to go to the next stage. While their presentation board wasn’t much to look at, the student was able to clearly explain what they wanted from their experiment. What followed was two months of analysis and development. Given the subject of the experiment, the student worked with one of the Resource Centre’s school psychologists and the science facilitator to flesh out the idea and hone the project. Eventually, the student won third prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF). Mansilla says that after that one student did so well, the whole school was awakened to the benefits of submitting science fair projects. 

“Suddenly, everyone wanted to do it. For years after, that school was so active. It really awakened everyone from the teachers and the students to the parents and the Chief and Council. That student went on to train with the military, part of what they won was a one-year, science-related scholarship to one of the sponsoring universities that helped with their future studies. It changed their life.”  

A focus on the Medicine Wheel and First Nations philosophies is one of the special things about science fair projects that come out of the Resource Centre and MFNSS. Coming from the Philippines, Mansilla says he is happy that students are learning about their connections to the land, the people around them, and their spiritual side. He says the teachings about these connections are often missing from the curriculums of other cultures. 

“We are developing a system of using First Nations languages and cultures as the context of everything we deliver to the communities. We have been developing comprehensive lesson plans that allow us to use the Medicine Wheel and, at the same time, acknowledging the cognitive knowledge, the physical, the spiritual, and then the social aspects of life. In my experience, almost all the countries in Asia are very focused on cognitive knowledge. We force our kids to do drills, like in math. But we have forgotten the social, we have forgotten the spiritual, we forgot the physical. It creates a sort of disconnect with the families, and it creates a disconnect with the people around you. The only focus is to learn, learn, learn without the social interactions and without the spiritual support.” 

Taking part in the science fair program is very rewarding for Mansilla. He says it can offer a lot to teachers too as it gives them insight into how well their students are comprehending lessons by having the students to put their learning into action. Since the projects involve all aspects of the curriculum, teachers can see the impact that they are having with real-world results. He encourages teachers to take part in the regional science fairs to, eventually, have some of their students reach the national level. 

“Every year it identifies the most brilliant kids in Canada. At CWSF, there are only 10 gold, 30 silver, and 40 bronze medals, and that is it. The CWSF averages around 400 students each year. So, when you get that bronze, it is not just bronze—you have proven you are a part of the one per cent of the most brilliant young people in Canada. And there is also the recognition from post-secondary institutions, like the First Nations University of Canada. There are so many universities and colleges there. It drives us to excel, to really help the teachers. When a student does well, it shows everyone what has been accomplished. It makes us so proud that we can guide a student and expand their understanding of what is possible in their life.” 

Sidebar: 

One Student’s Experience at the Canada-Wide Science Fair 

Sarabelle Garson is from Fisher River Cree Nation and her project on the Three Sisters—corn, bean, and squash—and why they should be grown together won her a gold at the Resource Centre’s Regional Science Fair in Winnipeg. After her win at the regional level, she went on to CWSF in Edmonton. Sarabelle was interviewed in Edmonton just before the final judging and spoke about her experience up to that point. 

“It’s been good so far. It’s been really busy, and I’ve been trying to do as much reading as I possibly can. I’ve been trying to read up on my board, just to make sure I can recite everything, and I have everything stuck in my head.” 

After the first round of judging, Sarabelle gained a better idea of what was expected at the national level and how to work on improving her presentation. 

“My first judge, I couldn’t answer a few of her questions because I didn’t really know what to expect at first, and I was a little bit nervous and I didn’t say a lot of the things I wanted to say at first. But with the last few judges, I did really well because I knew what to expect this time, and I learned from my first one. So, I did the opposite of what I did wrong.” 

Two other projects came out of the Resource Centre’s and MFNSS’ science fair process and their creators also had a chance to go. When in Edmonton, the students took part in several activities including a visit to the University of Alberta and Canada’s largest mall. 

The trip to the university inspired Sarabelle to think about her future. 

“It was really cool to see. I have never been to a university, like, on a tour like that before. And I got to see those rocks and computer programming. I got to learn a lot of new cool stuff. I want to go to university for sure. Maybe science, but I’m not 100 per cent sure of what I want to do yet.” 

Of course, the trip to the mall was a highlight. 

“I like the sightseeing. There is a lot of stuff I haven’t seen before out here, especially the mall. The ship inside the mall was really cool to see. I kind of have a shopping addiction. I got a lot of clothes. I want to buy a souvenir that has something about Edmonton on it. I want to buy something that will help me remember here.” 

Although she didn’t place at CWSF, Sarabelle says the trip was worth all the hard work that went into her project and she has come out a different person. 

“I’m already proud of myself for coming this far. I’d say I was a shy person, but if somebody talked to me, I would talk to them. I talk a lot louder now, and I can speak a lot more about things. Before, I couldn’t speak as much because it was my first time winning in Winnipeg. But now, I know a lot more, and I know what to say a lot more. And I got to make a lot of new memories with my new friends. I made like five new friends.” 

Sarabelle has some advice for any students who want to take part in the science fair process.  

“Just try your hardest, and even if you’re not confident, just act confident. You’ll make it. Fake it until you make it. Just … good luck, it’s worth it.” 

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Ad for Content

Hey, teachers and students!

Would you like to be a part of The Centre magazine?

We are always looking for content.

We’d like to see:

  • Student or staff profile of people who are doing exceptional work;
  • Student artwork;
  • Stories on interesting things happening at your school or in your community.

If you have an idea or suggestion, please email MichaelH@mfnerc.com!

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The Instructional Resource Centre (IRC) offers teachers and staff access to support materials and resources to reinforce their educational plans. The IRC operates like a standard library, functioning as a central hub for accessing lesson plans, reading resources, activities, and teaching concepts. However, it distinguishes itself from other libraries by offering First Nations Traditional Knowledge and ideas on integrating that knowledge into contemporary education systems.
Lois Daniels-Mercredie has worked as one of the Resource Centre’s library facilitators. She is excited about the information and lessons the IRC holds and what they can do for teachers and their students.
“The IRC is accessible to anyone affiliated with the Resource Centre or MFNSS (Manitoba First Nations School System). Teachers and staff can access relevant research and study-based teaching tools
that continuously evolve. These tools include comprehensive semester topic kits containing books, lesson plans, activities, and virtually everything a teacher might require for Kindergarten to high school students. The IRC truly caters to a diverse audience, and I’d really like to see it get used more often.”
The IRC has two locations, one in Winnipeg and the other in Thompson. The IRC now has a new library automation system, and both locations have completed uploading their collections and inventories. This new system allows staff to access inventories online and will soon be available to all MFNERC and MFNSS staff on the Resource Centre’s website. Training for this new library automation system and how to access it through the CONNECT system is available on request. It is hoped that such a system will overcome the challenges experienced by schools in remote locations.
“Our students need to engage with their curriculum and establish a deeper connection, moving beyond mere memorization,” remarked Daniels- Mercredie, a former educator and library technician.
“Historically, colonial educational systems have occasionally been advantageous to our communities, but most times, they have tragically led to detrimental outcomes. I am happy to be a part of the Resource Centre team, devoted to First Nations taking responsibility for teaching their youth.”
For more information on the IRCs, contact the
Winnipeg location (204-594-1290) or Barb Dollmont
at the Thompson IRC (1-877-506-1568).
*Since this interview, Daniels-Mercredie
has returned to a teaching position.

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