Science outreach in the arctic

“You can literally teach STEM anywhere, with anything, and to anyone.” That was the main takeaway for UWinnipeg Let’s Talk Science volunteer Ian Dimopoulos following a recent week-long education outreach trip to Hall Beach, Nunavut.

Dimopoulos and his colleagues, Michelle Trudel and Renee Hadaller, visited the remote northern community at the beginning of May to host a series of science-related workshops at the local school. While this is the group’s first trip to Nunavut, they’ve conducted workshops in the Yukon and have traveled to Churchill, MB, annually since 2016.

“Students and teachers in these areas do not have the same access to resources and opportunities as those living in a metropolitan cities,” said Trudel, UWinnipeg Let’s Talk Science’s Site Coordinator. “We believe that when a student has the opportunity to learn about science, they will gain, not only knowledge about the sciences, but they have the opportunity to work on critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and learning how to work collaboratively.”

To say the trip was an adventure would be an understatement.

Getting to Hall Beach, which is located 2,267 km north of Winnipeg, proved more difficult than the Let’s Talk Science volunteers had imagined. The group lost out on a day of workshops after their plan to fly from Ottawa to Iqaluit to Hall Beach was derailed by a blizzard. When they finally arrived in Hall Beach they discovered that their luggage had not made the journey — luggage that included all of their teaching supplies.

“We spent all night re-evaluating our plan and building new workshops with the supplies that we had in the one bag and whatever supplies we could afford from the Northern Store,” Dimopoulos said. “I’m proud to say that despite losing most of our supplies and a day of outreach, we were able to successfully deliver workshops and work with all the children with which we had planned to work.”

The group’s quick thinking resulted in rave-reviews from the kids who took part in the workshops.

“All of the community members were very welcoming and appreciative of all the workshops that we had prepared,” Hadaller said. “Many of the students expressed that they would like for us to return next year because they really enjoyed both the workshops and community event.”

Learning was a two-way street during the trip up north. While the kids learned about science, the volunteers learned about life in the territories and Inuit culture.

On their final night in Hall Beach, Trudel, Dimopoulos, and Hadaller threw an astronomy and outer space-themed party for the youth and their families. The event had the highest attendance of any after-school event in the town’s recent history and reinforced the importance of the trip for Dimopoulos.

“We felt as though the children got a lot out of our work in the community and that we were able to make an impression that will hopefully last for years to come,” he said.

About Let’s Talk Science

Let’s Talk Science is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science visit letstalkscience.ca. UWinnipeg students interested in volunteering with Let’s Talk Science can email letstalkscienceuw@gmail.com for more information.

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