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Arctic Science Day at FortWhyte Alive

Posted on March 12, 2018

We're big believers in the impacts of experiential education — and here it is in action. 200+ junior high and high school students came to FortWhyte Alive last week for a day of hands-on fieldwork to understand the impacts of climate change on the Arctic.

Arctic Science Day is a free science offering for students Grades 6 to 12. Luckily, the weather was perfect for the 9th annual event — no wind, just below freezing, with fresh white snow and frost on the tree branches.

Many teachers bring their classes back to FortWhyte year after year for this unique event, which connects students with Arctic systems and communities that are experiencing immense changes due to climate change. The goal is to inspire and inform youth about future career options in science and environmental studies, and to get them thinking about the role they can play in their own communities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and human impact on our shared environment.

High school students from 17 different urban and rural schools spent the day visiting research stations on remote Lake Cargill. This year’s stations included Biology and Light, Marine Mammals, Arctic Archaeology, Oceanography, Contaminants and Sea Ice.

Students were tasked to conduct hands-on experiments like putting a light probe under the ice, taking an ice core, and taking water samples. Students also worked with experiments and models that compared properties of freshwater and salt water — and warm water and cold water — and how these dynamics impact the Arctic Ocean. Students suited up in special contaminant suits to mimic the lab setting, and used their “Where’s Waldo” skills to pick marine mammals out of aerial photographs. The archeologists also brought along fascinating artifacts from Canada's North.

At the Interpretive Centre, Grades 6-8 students from Woodlands and Grade 8 students from Bernie Wolfe learned about the challenges of oil spill cleanup in the Arctic, what it’s like to research marine mammals (including picking through a fake seal stomach contents made of grape Jello!), and how ice and water properties in the Arctic Ocean are changing with rising temperatures.

Arctic scientists from University of Manitoba (CEOS) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have done amazing work over the years to develop and hone their educational stations, and graduate students and researchers continue to pass along their activities and mentor new students as other students graduate.

Finally, the glue binding all these scientists together in delivering such great programming is Michelle Clyde, Schools on Board-ArcticNet Coordinator and educator, who has been instrumental over so many years in making this program what it is today. Thanks for all your hard work, Michelle!

We are already looking forward to next year.

Interested in getting involved in Arctic Science Day? Send Katrina an email to explore partnership opportunities for this one-of-a-kind learning experience.