Michelle Bondy with kidsMichelle Bondy, outreach program coordinator for the Faculty of Science, leads children in a model catapult demonstration during a powwow August 15 at the Walpole Island First Nation.

Science reaches out to First Nations community

Aboriginal youth got hands-on experience with science this summer, as the faculty’s outreach program joined powwow activities at the Walpole Island First Nation.

Coordinator Michelle Bondy set up several stations as part of Let’s Talk Science on August 15, as well as on June 20, with Russell Nahdee and Danielle Handsor from the Aboriginal Education Centre.

“It’s a good chance for the kids to see what science is all about,” Bondy said.

Among the activities children enjoyed were:

  • using model catapults to launch toy birds at block towers they built, while learning about simple machines, angles, and structure strength;
  • making jewelry that uses coloured beads to represent DNA code;
  • sampling phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) to determine whether they are “supertasters.”

The chemical mimics those in some foods like cruciferous vegetables: the ability to detect its bitter taste is determined by a single gene in humans.

“If you have the gene, you will taste PTC,” said Bondy. “If you have a particularly strong reaction, you are a supertaster with two copies of the gene, whereas non-tasters don’t have a copy at all.”

The trips were a project of Erin Kelly, coordinator of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Initiatives at the national office of Let’s Talk Science and a member of the Walpole Island community. She set up Bondy’s visits to the island, located on the north-east shore of Lake St. Clair.

“The kids were very interested in learning and of course we try to make it fun,” Bondy said. “Hopefully in a few years I will see some of them on our campus!”

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