In late May, Dillon from our Schools Program team was in the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach to work with students from Jimmy Sandy Memorial School. After lengthy COVID restrictions, students and staff were thrilled to have some hands-on water science activities, including time on the land with fun tools and equipment.
Dillon worked with high school classes from three different grade levels, with a theme of water quality and watershed stewardship. Students learned to run their own “micro” water quality monitoring programs in our “Model Watershed” activity. They also learned how to interpret water quality data to identify sources of water pollution in our “Watershed Mysteries” activity. This 3-day water quality workshop was a warm-up for our fish habitat work that will pick up speed this summer. The land and water was our ideal classroom to learn and practice water testing and sampling techniques – including use of a YSI meter, recording good site information on data sheets, and use of some benchtop lab instruments (a turbidimeter and a colorimeter).
The big surprise was a visit to the community drinking water treatment plant! Jag (from the Water First Environmental Water Program team) arranged a guided tour by the plant operator, and the students learned about the system of pumps and filters that purify their water. They also learned that cleaner source water requires less intense treatment in the plant, calling back to the importance of good watershed stewardship!
Being from the community, Noah was able to chat with the students in Naskapi, the local language. Keegan, one of our technical trainers, noted that the students seemed to be more engaged in what was being taught when Noah explained the concepts to them in Naskapi.
Throughout the week, Keegan (from our Enviro team) and Kabimbetas (Noah) Mokoush, a long-standing Environmental Intern from the community, joined in the school programming. They showed the students the water quality tools that they use in their own environmental projects and explained the importance of those projects in the community. Kabimbetas drew on his years of experience in these projects to explain water science concepts to the students in the Naskapi language. Hearing the concepts in their own language, explained in a more familiar context, helped the students to grasp how watersheds work.
For Water First, inter-program collaborations like these deepen the impact of our programming in the community. For our interns, teaching the concepts they’ve learned to younger students helps to deepen and solidify their own knowledge — as they say, the best way to learn is by teaching someone else. We love it when our teams get to work together. It benefits everyone!
Each week this spring, this team sampled water at several locations around their community, before we transitioned into our fish habitat assessment work in July. This water quality data will form a valuable baseline for their region, and the sampling trips will help keep their knowledge and skills sharp!
As an added bonus, Water First staff were grateful to join the Community Cookout in Kawawachikamach — an event that has been missed during the pandemic. It was a chance for everyone in the community to come together over laughter and good food, including country foods like caribou, goose, ptarmigan, and lake trout!