June 21st is National Solidarity Day, a day for Canadians from coast to coast to coast to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada.
Since 1994, Let’s Talk Science has worked with Indigenous communities to build youth confidence and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Working closely with a National Indigenous Advisory Council – an advisory group of Elders and representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, among others – Let’s Talk Science has developed programs that are culturally aligned to support the needs of Indigenous children.
One of the many ways Let’s Talk Science connects with Indigenous youth year round is by traveling to local communities to conduct hands-on STEM activities. Since September, our Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteers have traveled to 50 communities across Canada to engage Indigenous youth in fun, hands-on activities that promote the development of essential skills. Volunteers visited Moberly Lake First Nation in northern British Columbia, Kapawe'no First Nation in northern Alberta, Sandy Lake First Nation in northern Ontario, and Fort Providence in the Northwest Territories – to name a few.
In the spring, Let’s Talk Science, in partnership with the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, worked with youth from the Oneida Nation of the Thames. Let’s Talk Science volunteers, staff and representatives from Schulich traveled to Standing Stone School to conduct health science outreach activities with Grade 1-6 students.
“It was great to work with Let's Talk Science to engage youth at Standing Stone elementary and get the children interested in a career in health,” said Adrean Angles, Indigenous Liaison at Schulich. “It was also great to have our medical students be mentors to these youth and come out to the community of Oneida.”
During the visit, younger children learned about the cardiovascular system; they found their pulse in different locations, measured their resting and active heart rates, tried stethoscopes and played a game to learn how quickly the heart beats. Older students participated in an interactive workshop on how stress affects the cardiovascular, endocrine and nervous systems, and learned ways to manage stress in their own lives.
“It was amazing to work with such bright and curious kids at Standing Stone School. Their enthusiasm was infectious,” said Erin Macpherson, Coordinator of Indigenous Initiatives at Let’s Talk Science. “It was great to have the Grade 3 students remember me from my visit last year! It really demonstrates the impact of our visits.”
In addition to the outreach conducted throughout the school year, Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteers and staff will engage with Indigenous youth across the country this summer. Starting on June 21st for National Solidarity Day, volunteers will conduct hands-on activities for youth at events in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and London. Throughout the rest of the summer, community events are planned in central Alberta, a remote community on the coast of British Columbia and camps in Northern Quebec.
Let’s Talk Science’s Indigenous initiatives are made possible thanks to the generous support from Merck Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the J.P. Bickell Foundation.