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Weledeh students take on Giant Mine

Grade 5 Weledeh Catholic School students are full of questions about Giant Mine.

Since spring, the class has been conducting scientific experiments and social science research into arsenic and Giant Mine's legacy using their maker space, which has netted them a spot as regional finalists in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow challenge.
The maker space allows students to experiment with 3D printers, coding programs, arts and crafts stations and computers to study real-world problems.

Kate Burt, left, and Elizabeth Gillard show off their Minecraft model of Yellowknife and the Giant Mine site at Weledeh Catholic School on June 2. This is the first time the students have used Minecraft, they say the project helped them learn how dangerous arsenic is and are determined to spread awareness about the danger in their community. Emelie Peacock/NNSL photo

In April, maker space instructor Trent Hamm gave his students class a list of environmental problems in the community. More than 80 per cent of students chose arsenic as their main concern. Using the maker space, the students took water samples in lakes known to be contaminated, created models using technologies such as Minecraft and 3D printing software Tinkercad and designed a model filtration system experiment.

Students Elizabeth Gillard and Kate Burt worked together to design a Minecraft model of Yellowknife and the Giant Mine site. It was their first time using the software. They said the model helped them learn about the dangers of arsenic and think of how to increase community awareness. For Burt the solution was spreading the word through the media, while Gillard said it may be a future career for her.

“When I'm probably older, I'm probably going to come back here and study how arsenic affects the wildlife,” said Gillard.

The group also interviewed elders in Dettah to hear about the history of Giant Mine and how it is affecting their lives.

On Friday, Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly fielded questions about arsenic and the legacy of Giant Mine from the group of inquisitive students.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly talks with students at Weledeh Catholic School about arsenic on June 2 while student Cambreia Hamilton listens. O'Reilly holds a 3D model of Giant Mine made by the students in their maker space. Emelie Peacock/NNSL photo 

O'Reilly said he was pleasantly surprised by the knowledge he saw in the room.

“Some of the questions were very sharp, so obviously these kids have done their homework and been paying attention,” he said. “I'm really pleased to see that this is something in their own community that they'll continue to pay attention to and that's what we need.”

Hamm said the space is encouraging students who may not otherwise be interested in school to exercise their creativity and inventiveness.

As one of the 150 schools chosen as a regional finalist for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow challenge, the class received a set of cameras to film a three-minute video documenting their solution.

The goal of the challenge is to get students to identify an issue in their community and use science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects to solve them. The final prize is one of four $20,000 technology grants.