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Band encourages budding scientists

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Rainy River First Nation youths are mixing traditional Anishinabe beliefs with modern science during the summer science camp at Manitou Rapids which runs until August.

About 30 “scientists” from age seven to 14 gather every Tuesday and Thursday at the band office for four hours of scientific learning and experiments.

But don’t tell that to camp’s participants.

“I think it’s fun because we’re always doing different things and it’s never boring,” Kristina Bombay said.

“I think it’s fun because we do a lot of stuff and on the last day we get to [dissect] fish,” echoed her friend, Natasha Leonard. “If we weren’t doing this, we’d be at home watching TV.”

Jennifer Mercer, ecological watch program co-ordinator and the camp’s main director, said organizing a science camp was only natural since there was so much interest in the community for one to start.

“[The kids] are always coming downstairs to see what we’re doing and what toys we have,” Mercer said. “Science is neat. You get to get bugs, dissect fish, and get toilet water samples.

“That’s fun,” she remarked.

Josephine Leonard, another of the program’s directors, said the camp covers everything from E. coli samples in water to nature walks and

seeing how much recyclable material is thrown out in the garbage dump.

Plans also are in the works to arrange a field trip to Duluth to take the youngsters out on Lake Superior, collect water samples there, and compare them to the ones taken at home.

“The whole purpose of the summer camp is to give the students a knowledge of science and how it relates to the Anishinabe way,” Leonard said.

For example, with the water sample activity last week, the students learned that water is sacred from the Anishinabe point of view. From a scientific point of view, they learned all organisms require water for survival.

Leonard admitted it’s hard to mix the two together at times, noting science if based on proof and fact while the traditional ways often are based on faith and belief.

But she said it was important for the children to get a solid grasp on both as “future keepers of the river.”

“The Anishinabe way is based on respect,” Leonard stressed. “The main thing is to get these children to respect living things.”

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