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Science at the national level

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kivalliq students Scott Sammurtok of Chesterfield Inlet, and Chelsea Sammurtok and Tatonya Autut of Rankin Inlet, put in a solid showing at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Charlottetown, P.E.I., this past month.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Kivalliq science contingent of Tatonya Autut, left, Glen Brocklebank, Chelsea Sammurtok, Scott Sammurtok and Katharine O'Connell, from left, are dressed for success as they arrive at the awards ceremony and banquet for the CanadaWide Science Fair in Charlottetown, P.E.I., this past month. - photo courtesy of Katharine O'Connell

The students were accompanied by teachers Glen Brocklebank of Chester and Katharine O'Connell of Rankin.

Brocklebank said the fair was, in a word, awesome.

He said Scott Sammurtok (Grade 12) got some of the best feedback he's ever heard a judge give to a Chester student.

"Scott's project was strong and he came very close to a medal," said Brocklebank. "The judge told him his project was awesome and he did a great job speaking about it.

"They thought his project, Articulating Qamutiik, was a great topic and very important to where he lived.

"The judges asked a lot of questions about Nunavut, so Scott became a Northern ambassador to a lot of people."

Brocklebank said Victor Sammurtok School students are still in awe of the projects at the national fair.

He said a new student has gone to the national event each of the past four years, so it's been a fresh experience for every one of them.

"They talk a lot about what they did at the fair when they return to Chester, but they also talk about the projects and it's almost as if they're in shock over them.

"But, in terms of the science, their projects are on par with what they're up against at the national level.

"None of our students have ever been embarrassed by their project.

"About 60 per cent of the students there were mentored by someone in university, so it's high level stuff, but the science is still judged by its merit, not who you had working with you."

Brocklebank said there was discussion at this year's fair about introducing an award for projects based on traditional knowledge.

He said the award should be available to anyone who encompasses traditional knowledge into their project, not just aboriginal students.

"They already have specific awards for math, science or physics, so they want to, at least, look at one for traditional knowledge.

"I support the concept on its merit, but not if it were anything less than absolutely genuine.

"If our students are bringing projects that aren't at the national level, then they have to go back to their schools and make it happen.

"And students at Victor Sammurtok School are working to make it happen."

O'Connell said she and the Rankin female students totally enjoyed the fair.

She said everything they took part in was fun.

"We toured the Island, did the Anne of Green Gables thing, went to Cavendish and a really cool Confederation museum, and took part in the Charlottetown Challenge, which was kind of like an Amazing Race," said O'Connell.

"We also had a lobster dinner, and went bowling and to the movies."

O'Connell said the two Rankin Grade 7 students were amazed when they entered the fair and saw the projects from across Canada.

She said the scene in front of them was a lot bigger than either of them expected.

"They just couldn't believe the scale of projects or how large the display area was.

"There were 400 or 500 students and the range of topics was pretty incredible.

"So, the grand scale of the event - how big it was compared to our school and regional fairs - shocked them."

O'Connell said none of the Kivalliq students were intimidated by the competition.

She said they were a little nervous about their interviews, but that's common among most of the students competing at the national event.

"They all seemed very confident in their projects and knew exactly what they were talking about.

"They had a lot of knowledge in the area they were studying, expressed themselves well and answered the questions pretty easily.

"Their work stood up well against the other projects from across Canada."

O'Connell said she shares many of Brocklebank's viewpoints on the traditional knowledge award being discussed at the national level.

She said she also supports the concept, but only if it can won by any student.

"If it's an award that looks at all forms of traditional knowledge from across Canada, like refining maple syrup or something from within Quebec culture, for example, then I would be supportive of it.

"But I don't think it would be as wise to have an award specific to aboriginal cultures only.

"Aboriginal culture is very, very important, and it's an important part of the projects within our school.

"But, in order to make it fair and have that award on the same level as all the others, it needs to be available to everyone or some people will perceive it in a different way."

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