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Mentoring Cree Youth in Moose Factory

Blog | June 14, 2024 | Share on:

The Let’s Talk Science Indigenous Outreach Project Award recognizes a collaboration between an Outreach Site or Sites and an Indigenous community that demonstrates a strong, positive impact on Indigenous youth through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-focused learning opportunities. This year, the recipients are volunteers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University Outreach Sites, who maintain a decade-long relationship with several remote Indigenous communities, most recently expanded to Moose Factory, Ontario. This project brings together Indigenous youth from Moose Factory with Let’s Talk Science volunteers over the course of several months through visits to Moose Factory and Ottawa. The project bridges STEM education with Indigenous ways of knowing, creating a learning experience that benefits both students and volunteers while fostering community connections across geographical divides.

Let's Talk Science Volunteer in a blue shirt demonstrating an activity involving pink thread to attentive students

For more than ten years, the Let’s Talk Science Outreach Sites at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University have been running their Indigenous Mentorship Program with high school youth from two rural communities-- the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne. Students who participate in the program develop a research fair project to present at a multi-day visit to Ottawa each year, connecting STEM and Indigenous ways of knowing. Let’s Talk Science volunteers visit the communities multiple times to support the development of these projects and to bring hands-on workshops that illustrate scientific and design

Over the fall of 2022, thanks to funding from Mitacs, Let’s Talk Science volunteers from the uOttawa and Carleton Sites worked with teachers and administration at Delores D. Echum School in Moose Factory to bring the Indigenous Mentorship Program to the grade 11 Outdoor Education class. The volunteers developed several activities to bring to the students, which aligned with the Outdoor Education curriculum. The first was a snare trapping activity where students made snares from different materials and tested them for effectiveness. The second was a fish net tying activity, and the third a land-based activity that looked at ice break up on the river in Moose Factory. Finally, one of the volunteers developed a moose anatomy activity, as well as designing a pneumatic shooter. In spring 2023, Indigenous Let’s talk Science volunteers travelled to Moose Factory to bring the activities to the students and build relationships with the community.

Bristol board displaying a comparison of Snare Trapping techniques

“I liked how the Let’s Talk Science volunteers created hands-on science activities that were relevant to what we were learning about in the Outdoor Education class. After explaining the spring trap method that the Cree people use to capture snowshoe hares, the Let’s Talk Science volunteers designed their own contraption with counterweights which we ended up testing out in the bush,” says Robert, a Cree student from Moose Factory. “I later created a presentation which compared the two methods, which of course pointed out that the Cree method was better for many reasons.”

The following fall, five students from the Outdoor Education class, along with their teacher and a chaperon, travelled to Ottawa. Two research projects were presented by the Moose Cree students. The students compared the Let’s Talk Science volunteers’ snare testing activity with how they make snares and included a working model in the presentation. The second project was based on various fish harvesting methods in Moose Factory. Students were also given a chemistry lab experience where they ‘painted’ stained glass, visited the Indigenous Resource Centre at uOttawa, and participated in some social events. Students from the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne, another community participating in the Indigenous Mentorship Program, joined the students form Moose Factory for the visit.

Two Moose Factory students in white lab coats performing an experiment with test tubes

"Being able to participate in the Let's Talk Science program in Ottawa was a very educational and exciting experience. This trip helped me prepare for post-secondary education by presenting in front of people I never met before and learning about how things work around in a post-secondary setting,” touts Elise, a student from the Moose Factory Outdoor Education class. “I also enjoyed the campus tour and the stained-glass activity. It was fun to participate alongside the Mohawk students from Akwesasne. I made a couple of friends and I'm grateful for that!"