Written & Photographed by Krista Magee – Great Waters Challenge 2017-2018 Youth Advisory Board Member
For the past 8 months I have been volunteering as a Youth Advisory Board Member (YAB) with the Great Waters Challenge. This experience has allowed me to connect with diverse youth from all across the country who share my passion for youth empowerment and global connection.
Being a YAB member has also allowed me to grow as a person and as an educator and provided me with numerous incredible experiences and opportunities. Recently, I had the immense privilege of bringing the Great Waters Challenge to Yellowknife, NWT for the very first time! Since September, I have been working with Great Waters Challenge classes in the territories via email and video chat but I wanted to do more! With Waterlution’s support I took it upon myself to bring the Great Water Challenge in person workshop to students in Yellowknife.
Planning and fundraising for this trip on my own wasn’t an easy undertaking – between my school, work and volunteer commitments, there were many late nights filled with writing emails, outreach, and writing grant applications–but it sure was worth it!
My journey began on March 7th when I travelled from Ottawa, through Edmonton, before landing in the Northwest Territories just after midnight. I made my way to the cozy B&B in Old Town where I was staying, and immediately went to bed, tired from a long day of travel! I awoke early on Thursday, ready to begin my first day of workshops! That day, I facilitated several workshops at NJ Macpherson School to students in grades 4 and 5.
The students were so eager to listen, learn, and to share their knowledge with me. Despite having just met, we quickly connected over our shared love for water. The following day I facilitated even more at École St. Joseph School, École J.H. Sissons, and Mildred Hall School to students in grades 5 through 8. In just two days I was able to connect with over 180 youth in 10 different classrooms at 4 different schools!
“We shared stories and spoke about our favourite ways to experience water–including boating, fishing, and skating, just to name a few!”
The goal of the Great Waters Challenge is to inspire students to take the lead on community-based awareness, action and stewardship for water. The classrooms were busy and dynamic–there was never a dull moment! It was amazing to be able to connect with and learn from so many intelligent students in the short span of two eventful days. We shared stories and spoke about our favourite ways to experience water–including boating, fishing, and skating, just to name a few! We spoke about our favourite local water bodies, including the Great Slave Lake, the Yellowknife Bay, and Range Lake. Finally, we explored challenges that exist within the Arctic Ocean watershed, such as oil sands, arsenic pollution, ice thaw, and water management. We discussed what these challenges mean in different contexts and brainstormed ways that we can contribute to eliminating these challenges in our watershed. At the end of every workshop, we all participated in a mini water celebration. I handed out cue cards and students answered the question “What does water mean to you?” Every student answered the question in their own unique way–whether it was drawing a picture, sharing a story, or even telling a joke!
My time in Yellowknife provided me with numerous learning opportunities that expanded even further beyond the classroom. When I wasn’t facilitating workshops, I was busy exploring Old Town, taking in breathtaking 360-degree views from the Bush Pilot’s Monument, or eating Great Slave cod at Bullock’s Bistro. I also had the opportunity to visit the Snowking Winter Festival and walk along the ice road! There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky on Friday evening, and I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Lee Lake to witness the wonderful beauty of the aurora borealis.
Before departing on Saturday afternoon, I stopped at the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories where I learned more about NWT’s consensus style of government. Afterwards, I went next door to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre where I visited exhibits on the RCMP Special Constables in the NWT and Wıìlıìdeh Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
Almost a month later, I am still learning from my experience in Yellowknife. Facilitating Great Waters Challenge workshops is always an incredible experience, but there was something so special to be able to do it in a place I’d never been! Every student and teacher that I had the pleasure of meeting shared so much enthusiasm and knowledge that I know I will continue to pass on!
I would like to thank the Queen’s University Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund, TakingITGlobal, and Waterlution for making this experience possible.
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