Students find science in traditional practices

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:42

Nearly a dozen students from Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and a pair from Churchill High School competed in the inaugural Let’s Talk Science Aboriginal science fair April 16.
April 29, 2010: Volume 37 #9, Page A6
Students explored their history including tobacco-use, sweet grass, medicines and traditional weapons and competed for prizes including iPods, sweaters, gift cards and pride in being named champion. The fair was held at Confederation College in Thunder Bay.
For Fort Severn’s Donny Nayotchekeesic, a Grade 10 student at DFC, it was a learning experience.
“I learned a lot through this project,” he said. “I learned the history of the tomahawk and how it was used.”
His research into weapons found there were two types of tomahawks: one for cutting and one for war.
“The war tomahawk was interesting because the shaft was also a peace pipe,” he said. “If you approached someone and they were friendly, you would smoke together. Otherwise, it was war.”
Having never competed in a science fair before, Nayotchekeesic felt nervous when his project was being judged.
“I felt on the spot, like the centre of attention,” he said.
Kaiyah Duncan, a DFC student from Muskrat Dam, also felt nervous when she arrived at the fair.
“I felt prepared after working on my project for more than a week,” she said. “But I still felt nervous.”
Duncan’s project was titled Tobacco: Traditional versus Commercial.
“I never really knew about traditional tobacco and what it was used for before I started researching,” she said.
Her research changed Duncan’s opinion of smoking cigarettes.
“I used to smoke but this has really changed how I think about it,” she said.
Duncan’s project was named student’s choice by the hundreds of Grade 8 students who toured the fair. She also placed third in the overall competition.
Teacher Aaron Guthrie was proud of all the students.
“The students worked hard to have something they could stand in front of and be proud of,” he said.
Representatives from the college and Let’s Talk Science also served as mentors.
“They were involved in brainstorming topics with our students,” Guthrie said. “All the projects explored science in a traditional First Nation way.”
Sandra Stiles, the college’s faculty lead for Let’s Talk Science, was impressed with the research students put into their projects.
“There were great ideas that were very well researched,” Stiles said.
Churchill student Judy Slipperjack, of Marten Falls, won the fair with her project Aboriginal Baskets and Weaving.