Drumming and Science: Tuktoyaktuk Summer Camp Combines STEM with Traditional Skills

On a rainy Thursday in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, last week a group of kids, using paper and a sewing needle, built an amplifier for the record players they were learning to make.

He was part of a four-week camp in July that integrates traditional learning with science, technology, engineering and math — also known as STEM fields.

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

Making a record player was part of the music and storytelling portion of the camp, where King and over 15 youth in Tuktoyaktuk learned about the history of recording music. The day was integrated with local elders giving drumming lessons.

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

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 college and university students on STEM projects, including making paper planets, while learning about the solar system.

That week was a national youth-to-youth initiative called Actua Canada, which travels across the country delivering youth camps designed to break down barriers to youth participation in science, engineering and technology. The 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 student from Montreal who is one of three students who came with Actua. “It’s fantastic and really helps the kids to have a strong structure as well.”

The team, through various activities, taught coding and robotics and did projects with the children, such as building pretend volcanoes, rockets and instruments.

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

“It helps kids have an understanding,” Kupovics said.

For over a decade, Actua has been providing STEM programs throughout the NWT

Meeka Steen is the head of the IRC summer camp in Tuktoyaktuk for ages five to 12.

“The kids really enjoy it because it’s stuff they’ve never seen or done before,” she said, referring to listening to vinyl 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 team was located in Sachs Harbour, Inuvik and Gametì.

They then go to Nunavut to visit Kugaaruk and Cambridge Bay, then to Fort Chipewyan in Alberta.

During a summer camp designed to get young people involved in STEM subjects, children made pretend volcanoes. The camp was combined with traditional learning that included activities such as Inuvialuit drum dance lessons. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Student Jordyn Hendricks from Ottawa is with the Actua team and will begin his first year at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.

Hendricks said being able to connect cultural elements to these camps is one of the “most important” aspects of the camps, especially as team members are guests in these communities.

“Especially as a native, I really value connecting with other natives,” Hendricks said.

“I am truly grateful to have had this experience, to share a piece 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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