Chapter 6A: Cranberry Portage, Manitoba

So remember that great weather we were having in Yorkton? Well, that all disappeared when we headed to Cranberry Portage, Manitoba. Instead of sunshine, we were greeted with (you guessed it)…. snow! Although I suppose it shouldn’t have been that surprising as it was a five hour drive up north from Yorkton. However, our team has been through worse and we were placed in spacious cabins, so we couldn’t complain.

My spacious cabin in between Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon

Cranberry Portage (CP) is a very small town with a population of just over 500 people. Most of the students at Frontier Collegiate came from smaller communities in the province and stayed on campus for their studies. Our contact, Bill was the science and math teacher who applied to be one of the Power of Ideas Tour stops and we’re so glad that he did, because it enabled us to engage with students who would not normally have access to science in this medium. Our presentation space would be a small one, in fact, it was in the campus library and our exhibit was placed in the gymnasium which was in another building.

Here we are off-loading our exhibit in the snow

We had a great response from the students who enjoyed the interactive bits of the exhibit, particularly our demonstrations. I think we actually had time to go through all our demos at one point! There were some schools that drove hours just to come see our exhibit and presentation and so we wanted to give them the best experience possible. I had a great conversation after my presentation with some students who were interested in neuroscience and the research I was previously involved in. One student told me he was taking a psychology course and he was fascinated by neurotransmitters and their role in behaviours. They were fascinated to learn that the brain continues to generate new neurons even during adulthood. I have to be honest, it was nice to chat about other sciences (no disrespect to physics)!  Here are some ideas I gathered from my audience:

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If you were to walk through our exhibit, you would notice that we have a couple blackboards with various questions asking visitors to share their thoughts, ideas and questions. We usually have a question that asks visitors what problem they would like to solve. We found that younger audiences liked writing their names or drawing random things on the blackboards, but at this venue students took this question quite seriously. They wrote down issues that really mattered to them, ranging from our government to protecting the bees. Seeing this made me ask myself: why do they care about this? Could it be that they are much closer and connected to these issues than others?

Issues that matter to young people in Cranberry Portage

I learned that many students at the college took a long time to graduate and most had a reading level comparable to a grade 4 or 5. However, that did not stop them from asking questions or voicing what concerned them. What can we do for vulnerable populations, especially young people in smaller communities? Resources are scarce when you’re in remote communities, so what is the best way to sustain education in these parts? I don’t know, except that the solution is a complex one and it’s going to take the right people who care. This bothers me to no end.

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