2019 marks the first year SciXchange delivered original content and activities aimed at communicating Indigenous science and increasing engagement with Indigenous communities in Ontario. Throughout the year, Amber Sandy (the Indigenous Knowledge and Science Outreach Coordinator) and Jenna Barnhardt (a Student Outreach Lead), formed relationships with Indigenous experts, tapped into community resources, and followed their personal experiences to grow SciXchange's first Indigenous initiatives. After months of careful planning and learning new skills, Stoodis Science and Hide Tanning for Science Literacy Week were introduced! Continue reading for more information about these two events.
Stoodis Science is the first Indigenous outreach opportunity created by SciXchange. Amber and Jenna visited Jenna's home community, the Tyendinaga Mohawk Reserve, external link located about 2.5 hours away from Toronto, to deliver STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education and Indigenous science learning to youth. Two different topics were taught to visitors, including Neuroscience, and how to make a traditional salve.
The Neuroscience Edition
This workshop taught children about the different sections of the brain and its power! This included how you are tricked by optical illusions, how it helps you hear or learn languages, its impact on your personality, and its ability to communicate with other parts of the body for movement. Participants coloured in and labelled a paper image of the brain, then cut it out and formed it into a 3D model and wearable cap. This allowed everyone to connect where the different areas of the brain are located relative to the shape of the head.
Making a Traditional Salve & its Impact on the Brain
The adult workshop taught participants how to make a salve (a healing balm or cream applied to the skin made of a beeswax or oil base) and its connection to the brain. Topical agents (medicine applied to the surface of the skin) are used in Western medicine and work when molecules are able to penetrate through passive penetration (without the assistance of another drug or mechanism, such as absorption). Salve works in the same way and is a considered a topical agent, and has been used by Indigenous Peoples throughout history. Using salve is influential to the brain as it penetrates the nerves throughout the body vis the central nervous system (CNS) and can block pain signaling molecules.
Stoodis Science was a big hit with the Tyendinaga community! SciXchange plans to continue this activity in 2020.
Hide Tanning for Science Literacy Week
Amber challenged herself throughout the spring and summer of 2019 to learn the complex skill of hide tanning. After several months of intense training and practise Amber successfully tanned multiple deer hides alongside her Indigenous expert instructors. Amber was able to bring this exceptional skill to campus, and with the guidance of the Experts, demonstrated it over 4 days to the Toronto Metropolitan University community.
The Hide Tanning event showcased Indigenous science at Toronto Metropolitan University in a way never seen before! Students, staff, faculty, and community visitors, were wowed by the process and impressed with the final result of the deer hides. Visitors were especailly amazed with the quality of the hides when comparing them to a synthetically manufactured leather and intrigued to learn that Indigenous Peoples have been producing hides using natural processes for centuries.
During the Friday and Saturday of Science Literacy Week, Toronto Metropolitan University hosted its annual pow wow. SciXchange was fortunate to be a special feature during the two day affair. Hundreds of visitors walked through the Quad to experience traditional ceremonies and performances, then lend a hand to scrape the hides.