Week with Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School



Heather Kerrison

Write to Heather

Workshop Facilitator, Ontario


Note: These workshops took place in January 2020.

I had been looking forward to my trip to Rama First Nations for quite some time, scheduled before the holiday break, it was something to highly anticipate come the new year. Having the opportunity to facilitate a week of workshops in an Indigenous community on my own was a first for me and I was elated.

Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School

The week consisted of four full day workshops with the grade fours, fives, sixes and sevens exploring both wind and solar energy as alternative, renewable sources for our future. Each day was different and lively due to the fact that we did a design challenge with each class. This means that after spending our mornings experimenting and learning about solar and wind technologies, every afternoon the students had the opportunity to build their own working wind turbine or solar car. This is always such an amazing experience, both for me to watch as an educator and for the students to experience, grapple with and end up with a finished product that they are excited about.

It was the grade seven class who I did a full day wind workshop with and aided them in making their own wind turbines. By the end of the day the students were able to connect their own working turbines that they had created to a multimeter, which measures voltage produced, to see the electricity that they were making.

With the fours, fives and sixes we made solar cars and it is always incredibly interesting to see how different all of the cars turn out and the amount of problem solving and innovation they bring out in the students. I never show an example of what a finished solar car looks like, so that students will have to completely make one of their own design, using as much imagination and learned skills as possible.

Solar Cars from one of the design challenges

As you can see, all the cars end up looking drastically different, all with a unique design. During the process of getting them up and running it is so inspiring to see the students work through problems that arise, troubleshoot and move forward.

Arguably the actual best part is having the opportunity to race the cars after completing the engineering process (and decorating of course). With the grade four class we recorded times from starting line to finish line to see whose car went the fastest. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end the week on a high note.

When asking the students if they had fun and what they were most excited to learn the responses were variant and exuberant. I was heart-warmed to hear how many of them were so enthusiastic about having learned that the sun is a star! And the role it plays in our solar system. As always, they underlined how much they enjoyed learning how to make their own, working cars. But they also noted how valuable it was to learn how to fix things that were broken or not working. Not only are these skills so relevant to learning about renewables, conservation and our future, they are such key transferable skills for our students’ futures, and it is tremendous to see them realizing that on their own accord.

I look forward to the opportunity to revisit Rama First Nations in the future!