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Scaling up outside activities
Return of Spring Fishing Week produces fun, learning for Chester students

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Friday, June 2, 2017

A once popular activity was dusted off, shined up and brought back into action at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet earlier this month.

NNSL photograph

Deanna Sammurtok and Dayna Aggark, back right, and Louie Kukkiak, Chad Kukkiak, Jeffrey Kukkiak and Mike Simik, front from left, are having a blast during Victor Sammurtok School's Spring Fishing Week in Chesterfield Inlet earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Glen Brocklebank

The school's Spring Fishing Week had been kept on the sidelines for the past few years but staff members felt the timing was right to reintroduce the special activity and it was immediately a big hit with the students.

Teacher Glen Brocklebank said it had been about six years since the school last held a spring fishing activity for the students.

He said when the staff met recently to discuss ideas on how to get the students more involved with outside and on-the-land activities, it was proposed that the Spring Fishing Week be brought back to get the students out prior to the community's fishing derby.

"So, our cultural inclusion teacher worked with the kids to try and get them to make fishing jigs, the hamlet plowed the road to First Lake, the Grade 9 to Grade 12 students drilled all the holes out on the ice, about 15 of them, or so, and they also set up the tent to establish the fishing camp," said Brocklebank.

"It really turned into a community event with a lot of people pitching in to make it successful.

"The kindergarten to Grade 2 kids were the first group of students to go out together and do a little fishing, and they were followed the following day by students in grades 3 to 6.

"The senior group, students from grades 7 to 12, went out on the final day, and we also had a few different elders, community members, parent volunteers and, of course, staff members come out through the week to do a little fishing with the students."

Brocklebank said Mother Nature was in a fishing mood and co-operated fully with the school program, providing, for the most part, beautiful weather for each group to enjoy their time fishing on First Lake.

He said the weather got nicer as the week went along, and it was nice to have Mother Nature on their side for a change.

"As always, with these programs and activities, we're moving the classroom outside for the students.

"Every group of students caught a fish, with about four or five being caught each day.

"To be honest, we've become pretty good at disguising the learning elements in these activities, so the kids end-up having a lot of fun while, maybe, not always realizing they're learning at the same time.

"The students would tell you they just had a great time being outside and doing a little fishing, but, during the week, they asked questions about water, the algae and stuff they were pulling up, the plant life at the bottom of the lake, and fish in general, so, while it wasn't a formally-structured lesson, there was a lot of informal learning going on."

While providing fun, exercise, fresh air and a sense of camaraderie and school spirit for the students, activities such as Victor Sammurtok School's Spring Fishing Week also gives them a better understanding of how water actually works; being a unique substance that exists as a vapor, a liquid, and a solid when it freezes into ice.

Brocklebank said through active discussion, as well as questions and answers, while they're enjoying themselves fishing, the students pick-up on things like how the density of water actually decreases when it turns into ice, allowing the ice to float.

He said the students quickly connect the dots to understand that makes it easier for people in the area to travel during the winter, because their land base doubles when the lakes freeze.

"They get to understand that because ice floats, it insulates the water underneath so the fish can live and aren't squished to death by sinking ice.

"It wouldn't be so great if water, in the form of ice, behaved the way the rest of the solids do, and, while getting to that point may be a little advanced for the students up to Grade 2, it's picked-up quickly and understood by the older students."

Brocklebank said even with the knowledge they gain early from family members, students can still become better fishers by getting a better understanding of how fish behave in water, and the reasons behind using different bait in different situations, as well as picking-up on things like knowing how deep the water is where they're fishing, so that they have a good idea of how much line to let out with their jigs. He said Spring Fishing Week went over very well with everyone involved, and he'd like to see it take root and become an annual event.

"We may try to drill more holes in the coming year so we can have one elementary day for all the younger kids to fish together, and another for the senior students, or, we may even look at the possibility of making it a school-wide event, rather then doing it class by class or a group by group kind of thing," said Brocklebank.

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