Manitoba First Nations 2012 Science Fair
It was everything you wanted to know about anything you could think of and maybe a whole lot more. It was the 10th annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair. The fair had projects you would expect from a mainstream science fair but also projects that make this science fair unique in all the country. Students from First Nations across Manitoba gathered at the Red River Community College to present their projects in this year’s MFNERC Science Fair. The variety of science projects was as diverse and unique as the communities from which they emerged. The projects ran the gamut from the type of experiments that you find in a science fair in any school in Canada such as “How does a Volcano or Tornado Work”. You will find projects asking the oldest questions in the world like, “Why is the sky blue? and “What is a rainbow?” There were projects that delved in the fundamental questions of science such as the nature of electromagnetism, does air have volume and what is solar energy.
The projects proposed queries that impact all Canadians such as the dangers of crystal meth, the negative effects of steroids and How addictive is Facebook?” There were projects that matter to all Manitobans such as “The Devil’s Lake Diversion” and “Invasive Species.” There was fun science, “Why does diet coke float and coke not?” and “Are dragons real.” There was creepy science about maggots, parasites and mold and “How the stomach Churns?”
What sets the Manitoba First Nations Science Fair apart from others is that many of the projects focused on science that is directly connected to First Nations. Here you will find experiments that relate to the specific science questions connected to the student’s particular community. There were projects that asked “Is the water in the North Saskatchewan Safe to Drink?” or “How has flooding caused by Manitoba Hydro affected the fish in our region?” There were projects related to health issues that impact First Nations all across Canada, such as “How does diabetes affect First Nations people?” “How does mold effect our homes” There were scientific questions regarding First Nations traditional lifestyles such as “What are the Health Benefits of living in a teepee?” There were cool questions like “What is healthier a Power Bar or Pemmican?” or “How to tan a rabbit hide?” In other words; a stunning collection of questions, thinking, experiments and science.
The event is organized by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Inc. Wilfred Buck is Science Consultant for the Centre’s R&D unit. He received high comments from the judges regarding the thought processes involved in the creation of the projects. He said, “the students are understanding the scientific process better and applying it into their science projects. They have to understand that science is applicable to their reality.”
When Buck visits the communities he often asks, “Did we have science before the coming of the Europeans?” The answer is overwhelmingly “No.” “I tell them science is a way of adapting to your world. It is a way of inventing things in order to make your life better. It is a way of gathering. It was a way of making life comfortable. The early people did that; if they didn’t do that you wouldn’t be here. Use that knowledge that you have to make your life better and make the community better.”
Buck takes science to the communities with an inflatable planetarium and shows students and community members that First Nation mapping of the stars and legends of the solar system is equal to any astronomers. During the fair, he put on a magic show where he read minds, did card tricks and skewered balloons with pointy sticks. During Buck’s “Science Magic” show he bring up a group of volunteers and gives each of them a can of soda to shake up as hard as they can. Buck takes a can and threatens to open. The audience leans in with the expectation of what is surely going to happen. He opens it up. NO FIZZ. Applause. He shows the trick to volunteers, it works. Again and again. “When you shake it up the bubbles stick to the side, so you tap the side and it releases the gases from the side and it doesn’t fizz. Who else wants to try?” The stage is stormed.
The audience is shown how science is fun, entertaining and even magical. Now it was awards time.
Rudy Subedar, Manager of Integrated Programs spoke to the assembled, who were now looking forward to the final component of the science fair. “It’s been a very, very good day. The feedback from the judges is that this year the quality was much higher than any we have seen before. We have a lot of things to give away, about $15,000.00 in prizes. At the end of the afternoon we will be recognizing four students that go to the national science fair in PEI. This year was one of the most difficult in making those selections. So I commend all the students for those high end projects.”
Prizes are given to the communities who brought the most participants and those who have travelled the furthest distance. This year Fox Lake Cree Nation takes home the prize for the most remote participant in the Science Fair. There are names drawn for Ipods and Laptops throughout the afternoon. Throughout the medals are handed out, bronze, silver and gold in each of the categories and for each of grade levels. All the children will receive a medal. One little girl in the youngest category heard her name called for her bronze medal. She bounded up to the stage with an ear to ear grin while pumping her fists in the air. It was as if she had won a gold medal at the Olympics.
Four projects were selected to represent the Manitoba First Nations at the upcoming Canadian National Science Fair in Charlottetown, PEI. Subedar let the representatives know that there is still plenty of work ahead. “The four students who will represent our science fair at the nationals, they will be very busy for the next six week as they completely redo their projects from the ground up.” The bar has been set very high, last year one of the projects finished third in all of Canada.