Big Ideas: $100,000


IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) is the world’s freshwater laboratory—the only place in the world where you can experiment on real lakes to determine what pollutants and human activities are doing to fresh water.

Our completely unique research approach has influenced billion-dollar decisions by governments and industry and has generated many cost-effective environmental policies, regulations and management—all to safeguard the future of our fresh water.

It is truly a unique place to deliver a whole new type of environmental education programming.

The IISD-ELA field station is located in a remote area of northwestern Ontario within Treaty #3 Territory and we are committed to bringing together local communities to address their concerns and needs and incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into our research. We have spoken with communities and Elders in Treaty #3 that they are especially concerned about environmental impacts of resource development, youth engagement in mathematics and science, and lost connections between youth and traditional culture.

In partnership with Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation in Treaty #3, IISD-ELA is therefore proposing a series of Land-Water Based Science and Indigenous Knowledge camps with youth and Elders.

Over the course of the spring, summer, and fall 2019, three land-based camps will give young people an opportunity to experience the natural environment, learn from Elders about their own culture and history and be inspired by all genres of freshwater science and what it tells us about the world.

These science camps will also benefit IISD-ELA staff—helping them to develop a better understanding of how to approach collaborative research and educational programming with First Nations. The workshop will also include honoring ceremonies to enhance cultural awareness and understanding.

How will our program benefit local Indigenous youth?

Objective #1 – Encourage Indigenous youth to become interested and involved with both Traditional and Western science perspectives by learning from Elders.

The field camps will allow Elders and youth discuss importance of Indigenous culture and customs though storytelling, sharing of observational changes in their homeland, and cultural ceremonies. This will then empower youth to become voices and leaders in their community by sharing their learnings.

Objective #2 – Provide an outdoor field experience for youth while delivering educational programming on freshwater systems that integrates Indigenous and Western knowledge.

These camps will give youth an opportunity to live outdoors and will engage them in land-based activities and science modules such as setting up tents, building a fire, outdoor cooking of traditional foods and science modules on concepts such as hydrology, ecosystems and the physical properties of lakes. These experiences will reconnect youth to the water and land and inspire an interest in science.

Objective#3 – Enhance cultural awareness and understanding of Indigenous knowledge amongst IISD-ELA staff to assist with the development of appropriate protocols for collaboration on research and educational

By addressing and acknowledging past research practices with Indigenous communities, this project will work to raise awareness and understanding within the IISD-ELA research community on strategic protocols and meaningful collaborative solutions. Elder participation in youth activities will allow them to provide feedback to IISD-ELA for future environmental programming.

What is the benefit?
This workshop will inspire Treaty #3 youth, help IISD-ELA staff learn about Indigenous knowledge and the importance of integrating Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in research, and deepen and expand IISD-ELA’s collaboration with neighbouring Treaty #3 communities.

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International Institute for Sustainable Development - Experimental Lakes Area

Location: Experimental Lakes Road, Kenora, Unorganized, ON, Canada