Summer Programs Foster Love of Science

Uu-a-thluk wrapped up its summer programming last week with a final science camp at Maht Mahs in Port Alberni. Participating youth between the ages of 6 and 12 spent the week learning about science, engineering, and technology, along with cultural experiences provided by community partners.

For intern Damon Rampanen, the camp was the end of a fun and exciting series that included six locations and more than 100 children. “Students were really interested in all the activities, especially the salmon dissection,” he said. “Usually they just gut the fish without seeing how it all works. Most of them hadn’t seen all the parts or had the chance to explore how they live.”

Sponsored by Uu-a-thluk, the weeklong camps included a focus on seafood resources and management. Guest instructors like Rampanen, and fisheries interns Johnnie Manson and Tina Halvorsen, helped the children explore the importance of assessing and monitoring fisheries through hands-on activities like measuring and dissecting salmon. Children also learned Nuu-chah-nulth words and concepts related to the activities.

“We used our language as much as possible, teaching them words for the stages in a salmon life cycle, for different parts of the salmon, and for different kinds of salmon,” Rampanen said. The program also gave campers a chance to learn from their elders, some of whom took part in the camps as mentors. Part of an ongoing partnership with the University of Victoria, the camps topped off the sixth year in a row that Nuu-chah-nulth communities hosted the Science Venture program.

Created to get kids interested in science, the program employs university students to stimulate excitement for science in today’s youth. Using a hands-on, minds-on approach, instructors introduce children to the  tremendous diversities and opportunities in the sciences, while dispelling common stereotypes and encouraging a positive experiences.  

For instructor Lucas Kavanagh, now in his third year of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the university, the program has had a huge impact. “I first attended Science Venture camps when I was in grade two and I still remember that experience… for me it created quite a passion for science.”

And passion is one of the goals. According to instructor Sarah Welton, it’s common for kids to lose interest in science early on. Giving kids a taste of the wonders of science is a way to prevent that from happening. “Between the ages of 8 and 12—that’s where you really start to lose kids. But that’s also the age group where you can really make a difference…Kids naturally explore on their own. These camps give them the tools they need to further that exploration.”

Now in her third year delivering camps for Nuu-chah-nulth communities, Welton has seen the program evolve substantially. “In my first summer, I didn’t have a view of all the cultural aspects being included. That partnership with communities and Uu-a-thluk has grown.”

From beach clean-ups to nature walks to scientific experiments, this year’s program focused on activities relevant to communities that would also have a lasting impact. The partners worked extra hard to ensure that the needs of communities were front and centre. That commitment was especially evident in Ditidaht territory, where instructors delivered the program for the first time to more than 20 children.

Says Welton: “At first the kids had the option of joining us or playing in the gym, and many of them decided to play in the gym…But after the first kids went back and told them about the program, all the kids wanted to join in. On the second day, all we could hear was ‘they’re here!’ and the room was instantly full.”

The camps wrapped up on August 26 after running in Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Tseshaht, and Ditidaht communities. This year Science Venture also delivered one program at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre for children living off-reserve.


Special thanks to Science Venture and the BC Capacity Initiative for making this program possible. Thanks also to the following organizations for sponsoring the camps:

  • Ratcliff and Company
  • Creative Salmon
  • Underwater Harvesters Association

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