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Students monitor fish population

Christine Grimard
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Students from William McDonald school are helping to monitor fish populations at Quyta Lake thanks to some federal funding.

While students have been going out for the last five winters for the project, the school sent an extra group of students Sept. 21 to 26 to give them a chance to check out what life is like at the camp this time of the year.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Elder Irene Soldat, second from left, teaches, from left, Hannah Clark, Jeanne Yurris, Colby Wallis, and Dayna Polakoff how to cut moose meat at Camp Akaitcho held Sept. 21 to 26. - photo courtesy of Jeff Seabrook

"What they saw out there was tremendous," said Grade 8 teacher Jeff Seabrook, who accompanied the students. "We gave them the whole picture of what this season represents being out on the land."

Camp Akaitcho is part of Yk Education District No. 1's Dene Kede curriculum, where traditional knowledge is mixed in with modern studies.

During the five-day camp, students cast nets to catch fish then measured, weighed, and marked down the species caught to help monitor the fish population and their health for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The program falls under a larger government initiative to encourage community monitoring of local species.

The camp isn't just about counting fish. With community hunts taking place this month across the territory, the group also got a chance to see what it was like living on the land.

With a little assistance from elder Irene Soldat, the students helped dry some fish and received a special treat when David Radcliffe, the district's Dene Kede curriculum co-ordinator, shot a moose. The group helped skin the moose, and butcher and dry the meat.

"It's cool making the meat yourself, and not someone else making it for you," said Brayden Cogdale, 13, one of the students who went out on the trip.

Cogdale said he learned how to gut fish and skin and butcher moose during his time out on the land.

"It's easier to learn outside rather than just being taught something in a classroom," said Hannah Clark, 13, another student who went out on the trip.

While learning survival skills was something Clark says she'll carry with her, it's the camp atmosphere she enjoyed the most.

"I like just sitting around the fire at night and talking," said Clark.

While students usually must complete a school project before being selected for the winter camp, the fall camp students were chosen by their teachers from last year after the school decided to hold the camp at the last minute.

Seabrook said students at the winter camp don't get the luxury of sleeping in tents like those used by the students last month.

With a little more time to prepare, Seabrook said the winter camp teaches the students leadership and survival skills, sleeping in stick shelters and igloos.