Science Fair Projects. Real World Impact.
“It’s one of the best ways to connect schoolwork to the real world.”
Nine-year-old Georgia Campbell from Ebb & Flow First Nation has big dreams for when she grows up: she wants to cure cancer. But first, she’s making plastic milk.
“First we have to heat up the milk, then we have to pour it in there and put a bit of vinegar in it,” she explains. “Then we have to strain it into another container and then what is left behind is a really gooey thing. You should feel it…I’m like, how in the world does that happen?”
Campbell wants to go into medicine one day, perhaps become a researcher, and that’s what the Manitoba First Nations Science Fair (MFNSF) is all about – to inspire First Nations students to become engaged in the sciences and, most importantly, believe they can do it. “That is how a scientist is born,” concludes Rudy Subedar, MFNERC’s Integrated Programs Manager and Science Fair Coordinator.
At this year’s annual MFNSF, rows of budding scientists with their display boards and experiments lined the Max Bell Centre at the University of Manitoba on March 11 & 12. Among the projects, several science fair classics such as Erupting Volcanoes and Growing Mold on Bread were presented. However, many of the over 400 participating students (from 35 First Nations across Manitoba) decided to focus on community-based research projects; specifically, real problems or issues found in their own First Nation. And that is what makes the MFNSF so unique.
“It is one of the best ways to connect schoolwork to the real world,” stated Subedar. “The sense of relevance and contribution students can achieve by doing research to solve real problems in their home communities can only result in greater feelings of interest and accomplishment.”
Examples of this real world connection included such projects as Green- Blue Alga Threatening Lake Winnipeg and Testing Tap/Groundwater Quality of Selected Households Situated Near the Dumpsite of Little Saskatchewan. On the second day of the Science Fair, judging and the awards ceremony took place, with gold, silver, and bronze medals being awarded in a variety of categories.
With so many negative stories about First Nations education in the mainstream media, it is inspiring and imperative that the successes also be recorded. Students, who are refusing to be statistics and making huge strides, also deserve attention.
At the MFNSF four bright junior high and high school students were chosen to represent their schools at the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium (MSSS) and the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF): Kaylee and Trinity Desjarlais from Ebb & Flow First Nation with their project Preference Bias, and Piercing and Cory Flett from Peguis First Nation with their project Bio Fuel (Pimatizi Bimide). Both projects, in fact, took home top honours at MSSS. Kaylee and Trinity won the Best Group Biological Science Award–Junior Level, while Piercing and Cory received the Best Overall Group Award–Senior Level.
When asked about their Bio Fuel project, Piercing was quick to point out that “Cory came up with the idea.” And, after crediting his cousin, he described their project as “a desire to do something green for the environment. We focused on recycling waste vegetable oil into a renewable green fuel source that can burn with little or no emissions.”
“The Canada-Wide Science Fair is a celebration of Canada’s brightest young minds and an amazing exploration in science, technology, engineering and math.” (from the Canada-Wide Science Fair website, www.cwsf.youthscience. ca). This year’s CWSF was held in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Kaylee, Trinity, Piercing and Cory were among the over 500 top young scientists showcasing their real-world solutions to some of the globe’s most important issues. The four young First Nations students were thrilled to be part of such a large, national event. They also enjoyed visiting New Brunswick for the first time and touring Fredericton.
This was the 13th year for MFNERC’s Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, and it is one of the largest fairs in Canada. As it continues to grow, and more First Nations students become interested in science, perhaps one day the world will be reading about a research scientist named Georgia Campbell who discovered the cure for cancer. Some content for this article was retrieved from www.cbc.ca, June 5, 2015