No one should know better than a Yellowknifer that understanding the rocks and minerals we derive our livelihoods from requires a deep understanding of chemistry, geology and the history of Earth’s early formation.

From left, Mike Pickles, Tlicho Community Services Agency curriculum coordinator, Helen Wong, a teacher at Sir John Franklin, and Wendy Tulk, a teacher at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School lin Behchoko participate in a rock challenge event put on by Lesley Hymers, a representative of Mining Matters. The organization helps teachers educate their students about rocks and minerals and work it into the existing school curriculum.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

That’s why an event that teaches educators how to discuss rocks and minerals in the classroom was such an important part of this year’s Geoscience Forum in Yellowknife.

Lesley Hymers, manager of education and outreach programs with Mining Matters, a national charitable organization based in Toronto that works with teachers to develop knowledge and awareness of the earth sciences and minerals industry, held three educator professional learning workshops last week for northern teachers at the Nunasi building. 

Hymers said the organization has been coming to Yellowknife’s Geoscience Forum since 2016 to teach mainly elementary and intermediate level school teachers.
This year, however, was the first time that programming was offered to high school teachers.

“What happens at a training teaching workshop is we provide instructional development for teachers,” Hymers said. “We are trying to help teachers how to learn about earth sciences and mineral resources.”

This year, the event drew 10 teachers from the North Slave region.

When Yellowknifer arrived on Nov. 19, Hymers was working with teachers and contrasting different rock make-ups, explaining the difference between intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, helping participants classify sedimentary rock and discussing the difference between weathering and erosion of rocks, soils and sediments.

The workshop had a hands-on component as well where teacher-students could see rock types like quartz, feldspar, gauvreau and rhyolite.

Education professionals on hand were Mike Pickles, Tlicho Community Services Agency curriculum coordinator, Helen Wong, a teacher of Sir John Franklin School, and Wendy Tulk, a teacher at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School lin Behchoko.

Hymers said her organization exists so that rocks and minerals can complement existing high school curriculums – such as in studies involving physics or chemistry or mathematics – but also fill gaps in education where earth sciences may not be properly taught at all. 

“Most of our resources are intended to meet curriculum but also complement the curriculum and add value through curriculum connections,” she said, noting she works with different partners to fit local needs like with the territorial government, the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines and school boards.

”We also provide opportunities for science disciplines and teaching through theme of earth sciences.”

Hymers said when it comes to teaching elementary teachers, often she finds they have very little science background at all so it the organization is helpful in providing some basic education education. In older grades, she said it is is important that teachers have the tools and understand they need to make sure students are ready for higher levels of education in the earth sciences.

“Through our work we want to make sure high school students are thinking about the earth sciences and we want to make sure they are working toward and are prepared to go into post-secondary education,” she said.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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