Photo Essays | May 25, 2022 | By Savana Theodore-Maraj , Education and Outreach Assistant

Winnipeg Youth Discover eDNA in Pilot Outdoor Classroom Program

Like many other environmental education programs, we’ve learned a lot over these past few years.

We have had to adapt to meeting with students virtually and discovered new and innovative ways to continue to share the amazing research and science that takes place at the world’s freshwater laboratory. While virtual learning has opened new paths and allowed us to stay connected, we are happy to say we are getting back to in-person programming with this new high school courses.

This school year, with the support of The Graham C. Lount Family Foundation and Wawanesa, we piloted an environmental DNA program for youth. Students from various high schools in Winnipeg met monthly with scientists from Dr. Margaret Docker’s laboratory. Hands-on learning is an invaluable way to learn about fresh water, and this course afforded us many opportunities to visit and try new things: collecting and analyzing samples; field and lab work; spending time on a university campus and; of course, hatchet throwing, snowshoeing, and wilderness survival activities (thanks to FortWhyte Alive).  

While we still had to limit our in-person time, we managed to adapt, and the students gained a wide range of new knowledge, skills, and stories that they will take back to their schools and communities and use in life and future professions.

If you want to see a snapshot of the amazing experiences from our programs, check out the photos and quotes from those high school students below …

Informal tour of the University of Manitoba campus.
Students sampling soil at FortWhyte Alive farms.

“I learned what eDNA is and it got me more interested in the environmental part of science. I really liked doing fieldwork and sampling because it gave me a new perspective about how the data gets collected and I like how we were able to be hands on.”

Lara (eDNA course participant)
Afra presenting about DNA isolation.

“It was very motivating to see and work with such a diverse group of students who are all interested in science. And it was nice to be able to pass on knowledge to the next group of scientists and university students. You kind of see yourself in them. If I had an opportunity to do this, I would’ve because hands-on opportunities are great and I would’ve appreciated it had I had that.”

Claire (student from the Docker laboratory)
Taking in displays on science and technology in the University of Manitoba tunnels.
Kim and Rizelle sampling snow.

“The hands-on [aspect] was really cool—in the inner-city schools you don’t always have the opportunity to do hands-on science. I always knew that I wanted to do something in environmental sciences. There was always a part of me that wanted to do something in forensic sciences, and it’s really neat to be able to bridge the two and there’s a path for it.”

Kim (eDNA course participant)
Vsevolod conducting water monitoring.
Puneet using a sampling instrument.

“It was a perfect split between fieldwork and lab—with some hatchet throwing in there too!”

Puneet (eDNA course participant)
Jasper throwing a hatchet.
Shelter building and wilderness survival at FortWhyte Alive.

If you are interested in supporting the groundbreaking freshwater research and opportunities for youth please consider making a donation or signing up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

Interested in having someone speak to your class about these opportunities and the freshwater science and research that happens at IISD-ELA? Shoot us an email at [email protected].