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Under the Microscope: Integrated Programs

Many of our First Nations Schools have prioritized the need for the promotion of science and science related careers, in addition to land-based education. This is where MFNERC’s Integrated Programs Unit comes into play. It works to promote science in our schools, and assist science teachers through professional development and resource creation. Additionally, it hosts land based education gatherings, as well as providing other land-based programming for our schools.

The past couple of months have been very busy ones for Integrated Programs. Here’s a look at some of the projects they’ve been working on.

The 11th annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair was held on February 15th and 16th, 2013, at the Max Bell Centre, University of Manitoba, after 8 years at Red River College. With the phenomenal growth that we have experienced over the past several years, the space available to us at RRC simply became too small. It is expected that the Max Bell Centre will be our new home, and the U of M our partner and facility sponsor for many years to come. This year the event was attended by 347 students from 24 First Nation schools.

Rudy Subedar

This year’s event also featured several extension events including Robotic Games, “Invent an Alien”, Electronics Adventures, and Astronomy shows along with the science fair exhibition. Our guest speaker, Solomon Trimble, from Twilight, and PhD student in science at the University of Oregon, shared his research in epidemiology and his passion for math and science with the students and made quite an impact. Our cast of 60 judges included 30 scientists and professors, from the scientific community at large, who generously volunteered their own time, or took time off from their various work places to contribute to the success of this event. This was greatly appreciated.

Along with the 60 gold, 102 silver, and 150 bronze medals awarded at the fair, four students were selected to represent Manitoba at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Lethbridge, Alberta in May. Congratulations to our four national finalists: Tara Brass, Little Saskatchewan – The Effects of Flooding on Community’s Water Chemistry; Destiny Desmarais, Little Saskatchewan – Soil Chemistry in Little Saskatchewan; Victoria Garson and Ally Mallet, Fisher River – Wind and Water Turbines for Fisher River; A Feasibility Study. We wish them luck at the national exhibition, and are confident they will represent us very well. For more information on the MFNSF program, or to get your school involved in it, please contact the Integrated Programs Manager, rudys@mfnerc.com

MFNERC’s Senior High Advanced Science Mentorship and Symposium Program, designed as an extension of the MFNSF Program, offers senior high students and teachers the opportunity to work as research teams over a 1 to 4 year period with extensive mentorship by MFNERC Science Specialists and Professional Scientists from the field.

The focus is authentic scientific research examining real world problems from the students’ own environments. From February 19th through 22nd, the MFNERC hosted a senior high science symposium for participants of this program. The gathering featured ½ day of student presentations and sharing of their work, plus 2 ½ days of Laboratory and Library/Research training at the University of Winnipeg. Thirty-six students and 12 teachers, from nine schools took part in the gathering. Moving forward, each group will continue their research and experiments, with regular mentorship for another year, after which they will gather to present their work publicly. Currently, we are working on having the syllabus for this program recognized as a series of School Initiated Courses, with the fourth year level, for students who stay in the program from grade nine through twelve, receiving a University Year 1 credit. For more information on this program, or to get your senior high students enrolled in it, please contact the Integrated Programs Manager, rudys@mfnerc.com

Immediately following the MFNSF, and the Senior High Science Mentorship gathering, the MFNERC Integrated Programs hosted a three day middle years and junior high science teachers gathering. Twenty-eight teachers from 12 communities gathered here in Winnipeg, where we conducted three days of laboratory training and Project Based Science workshops. The session began with our four MFNSF national finalists presenting their projects to the teachers. This provided the starting point to our discussions/review of “Project Based Learning” and “Integrating Outcomes across the Curriculum Using Science as a Context”. The two days of laboratory explorations focused on water chemistry; wetland ecology; and microbiology (Protozoa & Fungi). One of the highlights of this networking session was the high representation from northern, remote, or isolated schools. The majority of participants came from Lac Brochet, Tadoulee Lake, Gods River, Oxford House, Garden Hill, St. Theresa Point, Split Lake, and Cross Lake. We look forward to this ‘Middle Years Science Teachers’ group growing and maintaining contact with each other as they develop programs in their respective schools. For information on our “Science Teachers Networking Program”, or to get involved in its future sessions, please contact the Integrated Programs Manager, rudys@mfnerc.com

Science Teachers Participate in Laboratory Training

The third annual Ininiwi Pimacihona Metawewina was hosted by ONR School and the MFNERC in Cross Lake on March 5-8, 2013. The event was attended by 100 students and 30 adults / staff from seven schools. Overall, the event was very successful, with very positive feedback from both students and teacher participants. Over the three and a half days, participants engaged in twenty cooperative problem solving, and cultural/traditional activities designed using skills from the various land-based education programs being taught in our schools. At this event participants were divided into 12 teams, such that every team included students from each school attending. Teams then worked together, to complete various tasks/events/ challenges. The program was planned and designed in collaboration with the First Nations High Schools Land Based Educators Group. We extend a heartfelt “Thank You” and congratulations to the Otter Nelson River School staff and host committee for their hard work in planning and hosting a very enjoyable event. For information on this program, or to get your school involved, please contact the MFNERC Integrated Programs Manager, rudys@mfnerc.com

As we move into the spring team term, in addition to preparing our student delegation to go on to the national science fair, we are already working on expanding our science programs for next year. One of the areas of expansion is in electronics, robotics, and computer programming. For those familiar with our Ignite Program, this is an expansion into higher levels and a more sustained, comprehensive program. The Robot Games, Snap Circuit Kits, and Programmable Intelligent Robots that participants had opportunities to engage in at this year’s science fair are examples of some of these learning activities. For more information, or to experience this program yourself, look for our workshop at the LTF in May, “Igniting Interest in Technology and Engineering”.

As well, as we look to what’s ahead for land-based education, schools involved in the First Nations Schools Gardening Program are preparing for another growing season. Development of school gardening programs provides an excellent context and opportunity to integrate outcomes from across the curriculum through relevant, activity based, authentic projects that involve school and community working together. Through these programs a school can integrate plant science and horticulture, nutrition science, health science, body systems and biology, and biochemistry along a continuum of increasingly complex inquiry projects. It also provides a perfect opportunity to develop and implement curriculum that addresses community needs, such as health and nutrition knowledge, improving food security and food sovereignty, and producing healthier communities. The MFNERC provides support to schools developing, implementing, or hoping to implement community/school gardening programs through assistance with program development and accessing funds and resources. Over the four years since beginning the program, we have had over a dozen schools begin some variety of horticulture/ gardening programs. For information on this program, or to get your school involved, or if your community has an existing program and would like help in further development, please contact the MFNERC Integrated Programs Manager, rudys@mfnerc.com