Drum dance and science: Tuktoyaktuk summer camp combines STEM with traditional skills

On a rainy Thursday in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT last week, a group of children used paper and a sewing needle to build an amplifier for the turntables they were learning to make.

It was part of a four-week camp in July that included traditional learning involving science, technology, engineering and math – also known as STEM subjects.

“I think it’s amazing,” said 10-year-old Olivia King, who was part of the camp. “The people here are fantastic, they really take care of everyone. Make sure they are safe.”

Making turntables was part of the music and storytelling portion of the camp, where King and over 15 youth at Tuktoyaktuk learned about the history of music recording. The day was associated with local elders giving drum dance lessons.

Delaney Kimiksana left makes his own amp to listen to vinyl for the first time at an Inuvialuit Regional Corporation camp in partnership with Actua Canada in July in Tuktoyaktuk. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

In another week, the group learned about planting seeds.

One activity and King’s favorite project was during the last week of camp, where they worked with university and college students on STEM projects, including making planets out of paper mache, while learning about the solar system.

This week was a national youth-to-youth initiative called Actua Canada, which travels across the country hosting youth camps aimed at breaking down barriers to young people’s participation in science, engineering and technology. Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) invited Actua members.

“We are very grateful to have their resources and to be able to work with them,” said Vivianne Kupovics, a Montreal student who is one of three students who came with Actua. “It’s fantastic and really helps the kids have a strong structure too.”

The team taught programming and robotics through various activities and conducted projects with the children such as making fake volcanoes, rockets and instruments.

Viviane Kupovics from Montreal, left, and Jordyn Hendricks from Ottawa, both with Actua Canada. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

“It helps the kids understand,” Kupovics said.

For over a decade, Actua has offered STEM programs throughout NWT

Meeka Steen is the director of the IRC summer camp in Tuktoyaktuk for the 5-12 age group.

“The kids really enjoy it because it’s things they’ve never seen or done before,” she said, referring to listening to records and learning how it works.

Steen said some STEM activities have helped her and local educators bring new ideas to the community.

Before coming to Tuktoyaktuk, the Actua group was in Sachs Harbour, Inuvik and Gametì.

Next it’s to Nunavut to visit Kugaaruk and Cambridge Bay and then to Fort Chipewyan in Alberta.

Children introduced volcanoes during a summer camp designed to get teens interested in STEM subjects. The camp was combined with traditional learning that included activities such as Inuvialuit drum dance lessons. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Ottawa student Jordyn Hendricks is part of the Actua team, beginning his freshman year at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.

Hendricks said the ability to blend cultural elements into these camps is one of the “most important” aspects of the camps, especially since group members are guests in these communities.

“Especially as an indigenous person, I really appreciate the contact with other indigenous people,” said Hendricks.

“I was really grateful to have had this experience, to share a bit of my southern culture with my own teachings and spirituality, and to learn about the other teachings and spirituality of other indigenous nations and peoples.”

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