First Nations Science Fair
Contributed by: Rudy Subedar, Integrated Programs Manager, MFNERC
Earlier this spring, on March 11 & 12, 2014, students from 36 First Nations schools across Manitoba gathered at the University of Manitoba’s Max Bell Centre to share and celebrate their love of science. The 11th Annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair (MFNSF) was, yet again, marked by a number of milestones. Among these, the event reached its largest size to date both in number of schools (36) and number of students (466) participating. At this size it is also the largest science fair in Manitoba; even larger than the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium, which this year attracted 450 student participants, and one of the three largest of the 102 fairs held across Canada. At this point, only Metro Toronto and Calgary Youth Science Fairs are larger than MFNERC’s. This phenomenal proliferation of science activity in our First Nations schools will contribute significantly to our long-term goal of significantly increasing the number of students who successfully pursue their love of science right through high school and into post-secondary.
Another significant attribute of this year’s exhibition was the high number of authentic, community- based research projects. Over twenty- five percent, 67 of the 238 projects exhibited featured investigations of real problems or issues in students’ own communities, which is very high compared to what is typical at similar fairs, where about 5% can be expected to be original and authentic research! The growing emphasis on this type of work, which demands increasingly advanced language arts, mathematics, and thinking skills; and connects school work to the real world, no doubt contributed to the high level of enthusiasm and pride exhibited by students as they shared their work. The sense of relevance and of contribution attained by students conducting research to solve real problems in their communities can only result in greater feelings of interest and accomplishment. Indeed, some observers commented that they could feel the energy on the floor emanating from almost 500 students eager to present their research to visitors and judges.
Significant growth was also evidenced by the increased proportion of students achieving the Gold Standard of Excellence for their work. This year, following student interviews, project reviews, and judges’ deliberations, 73 students achieved Gold Medals, 127 achieved Silver Medals, and 266 achieved Bronze. Finally, four students were selected to represent Manitoba at the national level. These students are: Matthew Condappa, Grade 9, from Nelson House; Kayla Sutherland and Kelly Sutherland, Grade 11 from Peguis; and Dylan Harper, Grade 12 from Red Sucker Lake. Our delegation of finalists will travel to Windsor, Ontario, May 10-16, where they will exhibit their work at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, along with the top 400 young scientists selected at regional science fairs across Canada this year.
The cast of 70 science fair judges, who interviewed the students and reviewed their projects, included over 30 scientists, professors, and other individuals from the scientific community at large, many of who have been participating in the MFNSF from its earliest years. The feedback from those judges represents another milestone in the overall level of work being completed and presented by our students. As one long-time judge, who has served at all 11 MFNSF events to date, as well as every MSSS provincial fair for the past 43 years put it, “The work displayed was so thorough and well done, the judges could have done their work without the students there; but the students also, were so well prepared to present and explain their work that the judges could have done their job without the project displays there!” A higher compliment could not be paid to our young scientists. The staff of MFNERC congratulates each and every one of our students on the level of work and enthusiasm exhibited at the 2014 MFNSF. Appreciation and congratulations are also extended to the dedicated teachers and parents providing the commitment time, and support necessary for the growth and achievement demonstrated by these students.