Aboriginalstudentsstudy foodat thecellular levelPemmican and yogurtbring life to learning
Protein, fruit and healthyfats are part of nutritious, healthyeating. They’re also ingredientsin pemmican—a traditional foodof many First Nations people ofNorth America. Drs. Zenobia Aliand Virginie Martin use pemmicanprepared by an elder to helpaboriginal students learn how toanalyze the nutritional value of foods.
“They’re always a little surprised at
how nutritious pemmican is,” Ali
says. “They learn that their ancestors
possessed a lot of wisdom, and that
science is slowly catching up.”
Alberta Innovates – Health
Solutions (AIHS) offers free, hands-
on health science workshops to
aboriginal students throughout
Alberta on provincial curriculum
topics. In Grade 1 workshops,
program co-ordinators Ali and
Martin use sparkles to teach about
germs and the importance of hand-
washing. In Grade 5, children isolate
DNA from a banana and build
their own DNA models. Grade 8
workshops include the pemmican
food analysis as well as buildingcell models from yogurt, fruitand vegetables. Grade 11 and 12
students play “whodunit” with DNAfingerprinting.
Since 2008, students on the TsuuT’ina, Blood (Kainai), Siksika, Morleyand Paul First Nation reserves andin Calgary and Edmonton schoolswith large aboriginal populationshave experienced AIHS’s learn-by-doing health science program. Martinis working to take the program tothe Enoch Cree Nation and severalschools in remote northern areas.
“The hands-on experience really
enriches the students’ learning
in a different way than the two-
dimensional learning they get from
reading a text,” says Wendy Ryan,
a teacher on the Tsuu T’ina reserve
southwest of Calgary for 14 years.
“Plus, the kids really enjoy it.”
Ali says the challenge of bringing
the workshops into classrooms is
made worthwhile when the interest
of even one child is sparked. Martin
says some children in northern
Alberta live in such remote areas
that she feels she is giving them
an opportunity to see a world they
might otherwise not experience. “Our
measure of success is always whether
they invite us back,” says Ali. “So far,
— Janet Harvey
To learn more about AIHS’s aboriginaloutreach workshops and its otherpartnerships, funding projects andopportunities, visit: aihealthsolutions.ca.
A tapestry (right) and model (below)
of a DNA cell enriches studentslearning experiences.