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Indigenous Schools Water Program

Next Generation of Water Scientists

Indigenous Schools Water Program | Winter 2022

Considering the water crisis faced by many Indigenous communities, there is a profound underrepresentation of Indigenous voices in Canada's water governance.

Couple this with a lack of employment opportunities for Indigenous youth and it becomes clear that it is critical we continue to offer Indigenous students the most impassioned, empowering and exciting Water Science education learning opportunities possible. 

Water First’s Indigenous School Water Program team delivers workshops and hands-on STEM experiences for school-aged Indigenous youth to learn about their local watersheds and the factors that contribute to a healthy ecosystem. These programs create opportunities for students to strengthen their understanding and relationship with the environment, and to foster a love of Water Science.

During the programs, students spend time on the land and in the classroom exploring topics using Water Science tools and Water First learning resources. Water First regularly works alongside local community land-based learning or outdoor cultural training programs. This strengthens the breadth of the programming and student connections with their lands.

Fueling Inspiration in Indigenous Youth Through Interconnected Programming​

At Water First, we intentionally seek ways to interconnect our three program areas. In doing so, we are excited to report that all seven of our ISWP workshops delivered this fall were in one way or another linked to either the Drinking Water Internship or the Environmental Water Programs. This interconnectivity deepens our relationships with partner communities and strengthens the relationships within communities.

Shoreline Learning with Teme-Augama Anishnabai, the Deep Water People

Bear Island rests at the heart of Lake Temagami. It is home to Temagami First Nation, and about 250 Teme-Augama Anishnabai, the Deep Water People. In October, Water First was invited to work alongside community members to engage youth in Water Science workshops at the First Nation’s primary school, the Laura McKenzie Learning Centre. We spent five days with students from Grades 3 to 8 in their classrooms, on the land, and of course learning from the water itself, Lake Temagami.

At a small beach on Lake Temagami, students built a topographic model of Bear Island in the sand. A ‘pollution source’ was later added, and a simulated rainstorm demonstrated how point-source pollution negatively affects a watershed.

Community elders made suggestions for areas of interest to be tested along Bear Island’s shores. Students were taught how to use tools like multiparameter readers to take before and after samples of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and conductivity throughout these lessons.

Community elders made suggestions for areas of interest to be tested along Bear Island’s shores.

Plankton nets were used to collect samples of microorganisms from the lake to examine under a microscope.

Students were taught how to use tools like multiparameter readers to take before and after samples of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and conductivity throughout these lessons.

Students visited the water’s edge beside the community’s water treatment plant. They extended their knowledge and use of scientific tools by measuring parameters like wind speed, hardness, alkalinity, pH, TDS and conductivity. A Drinking Water Internship Intern, Nick Chapman from Temagami, joined the group to help with the workshop.

Lastly, students tabulated the data collected throughout the week and interpreted the story behind the numbers. They received a Water Rangers kit to continue with a regular water sampling project in their community.

Nick reflected on her experience of working with the Indigenous Schools Water Program in her community:

To read the full blog post about ISWP’s visit to Temagami First Nation, click here

Connecting Youth, Science, Water, and Community in Sheshatshiu (Shé-ha-ji-u) Innu First Nation

Whenever possible, we welcome guest speakers from the community to join us. This supports students to more meaningfully connect and relate to the local geography, context and needs. We travelled to Sheshatshiu in Labrador this fall. While there we were privileged to have three community members present to the students: Napess Ashini, a knowledge keeper, Ian Rich, the local water treatment plant operator, and Seth Hurley, a Water First Intern working with Water First’s Ryan Osman on a couple of environmental water projects in the area.

Napass Ashini came to speak on the first day of programming. He brought important local Innu history and ways of knowing that helped frame the whole week of learning at the school.

Ian Rich spoke with two classes, and he brought testing tools used in the water treatment plant to measure the chlorine level in the tap water and turbidity levels. The students were able to run the tests themselves, and they had a lot of questions for Ian.

Seth spoke with three different groups of students throughout the week. Many of the students recognized him from around the community. Because of that familiarity, both Seth and the students felt at ease and eager to share and learn. He showed the students some technology that he had learned to use during Water First training on the fish habitat and climate change projects, and the students had an opportunity to use those tools themselves.

To read the full blog post about ISWP’s visit to Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, click here

Drinking Water Graduate Visits Tours Gaagagekiizik School in Kenora

We have the honour of delivering our workshops in all of the communities involved in the Drinking Water Internship. This fall, we travelled to Kenora, Ontario to work with students from 3 communities within Bimose Tribal Council: Gaagagekiizik School (or Kiizhik for short) in Kenora, Iskatewizaagegan 39 Independent First Nation (Shoal Lake 39) and Obashkaandagaang First Nation (Washagamis Bay).

Nathan Copenace from Washagamis Bay, a recent graduate of the Drinking Water Internship Program, came to Kenora to visit the students at Kiizhik School. He joined this lesson to talk about his role in the community as a water treatment plant operator and shared with the students how he got involved and the importance of water and the role he has now.

Later in the season, when ISWP returned to Northwestern Ontario to work with students in Washagamis Bay, Nathan took the students for a tour of their community’s water treatment plant for a first-hand look at what Nathan’s new career looks like.

To read more about Nathan’s experience in the Drinking Water Internship Program and what it means to him and his community, read his interview in the Toronto Star here.

Drinking Water Graduate Speaks to Youth to Envision Future Water Science Careers

Since piloting the Drinking Water Internship with 7 First Nations communities of Manitoulin Island in 2017-2018, our relationship with the communities deepens as we continue to return to deliver workshops in the schools. In this video one of the graduates of that first Internship, Eric Vautour, sets the stage to fuel and inspire Indigenous youth to envision themselves in a future Water Science career.

During this period of time when staying connected can be difficult, all of the connections being made - between programs, people, place and community - feel all the more precious.

Thank you - to the donors and champions of the program.