Written by: Adrianna Bilinski, Indigenous School Engagement Manager at Water First.
The third week of January, in the middle of winter. That was when Dillon Koopmans and I, both from the Schools Program team at Water First, chose to travel to northern Quebec to the Nunavik region. We traveled to the coast of the Arctic Ocean to visit two Inuit villages, Kangirsuk (from January 19-24) and Kuujjuaq (from January 24-27). Despite the crisp temperatures, each community gave us a warm welcome.
The trip was almost too beautiful for words. Beyond the beauty of the landscape and the kindness of the people, the educational aspects of this trip were beautiful as well. As the Schools Programs team travels to different partner communities, it becomes more and more clear that each community’s needs are unique. For example, in Kangirsuk, we had a special request to use our programming as a jumping-off point for their high school science fair projects, the theme of which this year is water. And of course we agreed! We had lots of fun expanding some of our water quality lessons so the students could learn in more detail about all the different ways we can study water.
In Kangirsuk at Sautjuit School, we had the privilege of working with Grades 3-5 as well as with high school students. Each of the primary level teachers we worked with wished we could do more workshops with their class, and happily expressed their desire for us to return. Even the students passing in the hall asked repeatedly if we were coming back to their class for a lesson. These comments gave the whole team such a warm feeling. It is nice to be valued and wanted in a community when we are so far from home. More importantly, we work to inspire youth to take an interest in water science – and in Kangirsuk, these special moments made us feel like we succeeded.
The following week in Kuujjuaq, we had a special request to work with the Secondary 2 (Grade 7) classes. This was very different from our work in Kangirsuk, and equally rewarding. In Kuujjuaq we spent less time in a science lab setting, and more time out in the community with a field trip to their local lake, and then to the water treatment plant. Along the way, we helped students make connections between the quality of the water in the lake and the water treatment process.
This was a truly special trip – the students and for us. We saw students in the hall from each of the classes explaining what the other class would get to do next or comparing how the other class did on the knowledge test.
Each community was visibly grateful for the time we spent in the school, and both expressed excitement for our return. We look forward to being back in Nunavik to strengthen our existing relationships with these two communities, and maybe even venture to a few more if they’ll have us!
Outside of the scope of our work, we got to see some amazing Northern Lights, and even had the opportunity to see a circus performance from the Nunavik crew heading to the Arctic Games. These elements of the Indigenous culture enrich our experience beyond our professional goals, and make us long for the next trip. Reciprocal learning is a Water First value and a theme we keep in mind as we travel. We love to learn and grow even more than we like to teach on some days.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the next educational adventure!