Zeke McLeod laying on a bed of nails- science educator Martin Fischer behind him.

Zeke McLeod laying on a bed of nails – science educator Martin Fischer behind him.

By Christine Smith (McFarlane)

TORONTO –Some 40 students from Nbiising, Wikwemikong and Six Nations high schools gathered in Toronto for a two-day Science and Technology field trip on March 11-12.  Their trip included visiting the Ontario Science Centre to get a first hand tour of the exhibit “The Human Edge” and the exhibit “Brain: The Inside Story” for which the Ontario Brain Institute was the knowledge sponsor, Ripley’s Aquarium and IBM.

Chief Executive Officer Dr. Maurice Bitran of the Ontario Science Centre said “We welcome about 180,000 students from schools all over to visit but we realize that schools in the Greater Toronto Area have a better chance of being able to come here.  We’re pleased you’re coming from far and you have this opportunity to visit the Ontario Science Centre. We are about interactive learning, it’s not like school where you have to follow a curriculum, here you can go and play and see what is interesting to you.”

While at the Ontario Science Centre, the students participated in a science education session with science educator Martin Fischer, where they learned about the laws of gravity, how liquid nitrogen works, the equal distribution of weight, amongst other things.

When students were asked by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer and Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee what their favorite part of their day was at the Ontario Science Centre, high school student Zeke McLeod, from Nipissing First Nation said “The most fun part of my day was when I got to lay down on a bed of nails.

Six Nations student Hayley Martin said “My favourite part of this trip was seeing the brain. It doesn’t look real, but it is.”

Grand Council Chief Madahbee spoke about the youth’s time in Toronto.

“I’m very excited about our youth in our communities and that they have the opportunity for this type of field trip,” said Madahbee. “It’s a unique opportunity to be able to come here to the Ontario Science Centre because when I used to go around to communities, and ask students what kind of career they wanted, they would say:  I want to work in the band office, be a lawyer. These days I am hearing that students want to be biochemists and scientists. Our youth are our leadership for tomorrow and the brains of today. It’s great that they get opportunities like this.”

The next day the students were hosted by IBM Canada at the the industry giant’s Canadian headquarters in the north end of Toronto.

The students were blown away by the royal reception they received.  Two members of IBM’s world-wide diverse work force  – Rukhsana and Starlee – wowed the students with the vast array of opportunities available to them at IBM.

Starlee Degrace is from Georgina Island First Nation.  IBM is a major force in electronic communications technology worldwide.  The company has needs within their company for a diversified work force, in human resources, procurement, marketing, research/development etc.  Over 45% of IBM’s employees work virtually, many of them being home based. IBM employees are amongst the highest paid work force in the technology sector.   IBM has also developed software which enables users to translate text into almost 50 languages and the number continues to grow.

For the First Nations students, this really sparked an interest.  The students also built robots and were treated to a great pizza lunch before posing for a group photo in front of a towering totem pole in the company’s reception area.  The message was clear.  IBM wants our First Nations students to look to IBM as a great future for them in a very diversified and welcoming environment.  The smiles on the kids as they headed for the bus that would take them to the airport, said it all.  They will be back!