Join our Let’s Talk Science Program Support Coordinator, Outreach Susie Taylor as she recounts her recent trip with our University of Calgary Outreach coordinator to Hall Beach, Nunavut. This is Susie’s third time up North.
Getting off a plane at my final destination after a long journey always comes with the sense of relief and excitement for the coming adventure. I started to see familiar faces at the airport, and heard kids outside asking other passengers, "are you one of the scientists?"
And so began my third trip to Hall Beach, Nunavut to visit Arnaqjuaq School. Alongside me for the week was one of our amazing volunteers and coordinators from Let’s Talk Science at the University of Calgary, Reem Ghaleb. In preparation for the trip our team of volunteers and staff spent time working with the school to pick appropriate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities for Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms, in addition to booking flights and accommodations, and gathering all the materials to make sure we were prepared for a trip past the Arctic Circle. Needless to say, we were ready to get started.
So many questions filled my busy mind as I approached the school. Will the kids remember me? Which teachers will still be there from past years? Did I pack enough pipe cleaners?
That first day of Outreach activities began with excitement! The morning announcements let everyone know that Let’s Talk Science was here and to say hi to us in the hallways - and that they did! Walking through the halls we were greeted with "hi science", and as the week progressed, "Hi Reem! Hi Susie!"
I was happy to see that the school had begun a school-wide garden project based on the educator professional learning sessions that Let’s Talk Science conducted last year. Educators embraced the idea of growing plants in their classroom to engage students in inquiry and community building. As we visited each classroom, the students were keen to talk about their plants - telling us what they were growing, which student’s plant was the tallest and which classrooms to visit to see the biggest garden setup. This enthusiasm fell nicely in line for the plans we had during our Monday activities with the primary grades focused on the needs and parts of plants.
During this visit we had the chance to join in after school activities and were invited as special guests to the garden club. The garden club is a new initiative for the school and had 21 students – more students than were in any one class we visited! The students were happy to show us the worms they had in their vermicomposting bin. They all enjoy watching the worms and seeing what they do. We discovered that the students were using our microscopes to answer some inquiries they had previously discussed about the worms, such as: Do worms have eyes? Is the worm pregnant? We brought out our microscope that connects to a laptop to get a close-up look at what the worms were up to. The students had a great time trying to see if they could find answers to their questions.
As the week continued, we were able to visit each class twice, exploring a variety of STEM topics. One of the highlights was running the Fight or Flight: The Science of Stress workshop. The Grade 4 through 12 students looked at different organ systems and our body’s stress response. The students had fun with the nervous system relay, seeing how hormones travel through the blood stream and trying to pump like a heart. We talked about what their stresses are and how they deal with stress. A lot of students commented that they love sports and listening to music as ways to relax. A deep breathing video that we played at the end of the workshop was a great chance for some students to develop a new skill to help them relax, enjoy the calm and reflect. During a busy day quiet time like that isn’t too common. I was in awe as I could see some students fully relaxing during those few minutes and really taking it to heart. I hope they remember these tips the next time they are experiencing a stress response in their daily lives.
Our community event on Tuesday was a fun and busy time. Reem spent her time making paper plants, doing experiments to see how water gave flowers structure and exploring with the microscope. I spent a lot of time sharing the science of yoga! Earlier that day we talked about our muscles, and practiced some stretching in the high school physical education class. Visiting a gym class to do Let’s Talk Science was a first for me! A group of excited young boys entered the gym and made a beeline straight for the mats, determined to learn every move on our pictures and more! They had a lot of fun stretching up to the sky and waving their hands while paying attention to which muscles they were stretching. One high school student and I did a long series of stretching; she was very good and had a great time with the challenge. We left the pictures of the poses for the school to use again. Brenda Manning, the principal, was excited to set up some mats after school for a yoga night in the near future.
Near the end of the week we had a chance to chat with Emily Bradford, Vice Principal of Arnaqjuaq School. This is what Emily had to say about the Let’s Talk Science experience:
"The Let's Talk Science group has once again engaged and inspired our students in STEM curriculum. Our students were energized by the activities that they brought with them and have left for our teachers to continue in the classrooms. We're always impressed by the new materials that they bring in and we look forward to continuing our partnership in the future of our gardening and greenhouse projects."
As I make the journey home today and think back on our trip, I can’t help but start planning for next year. With endless opportunities and so much potential, I can’t wait to see what happens next.