The decision to replace the SET Challenge run by the Kivalliq Science Educators Community (KSEC) with the Actua's STEM Challenge is not a popular one with KSEC co-president Glen Brocklebank of Chesterfield Inlet.
Brocklebank said KSEC was working with interested science teachers in the other two Nunavut regions to promote what the science community had been doing in the Kivalliq for more than 20 years.
He said the Kitikmeot has its own version of the KSEC program called SKY and has been fairly successful with the program, sending students to the Canada-wide Science Fair for a number of years.
“The Kitikmeot's science fair hasn't been around as long as KSEC's, which in its 20-plus years has had some great mentors like Jim Kreuger in Baker Lake helping to steer us through it,”said Brocklebank.
“The Kitikmeot's programming for its science fair has been done through Actua and they told that company they were looking at doing a territorial challenge.
“Actua spoke to some KSEC members, who were open to giving it a shot to see what it looked like, so, this year, Actua took on the idea of sending things out to all the schools in Nunavut to do the STEM Challenge, and they're (STEM and SET) really the same thing.
“It wasn't so much to benefit our region as it was the Kitikmeot and the Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin).”
Brocklebank said the problem he has with the move is that KSEC programming is more reflective of what Kivalliq students are actually all about, and more reflective of community involvement, the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) principles, and what students and teachers see, feel and touch in their schools.
He said KSEC programming was designed in Kivalliq schools for Kivalliq schools.
“Personally, I think the challenges we've been delivering for 20 years are a better fit, less dependent on things that have to be done a certain way, and more open to being creative, much like the IQ principles,” he said.
“So, the challenge is issued and the creativity of the student is at the foreground of how they solve the problem, as opposed to a more structured way that needs to be assembled this way or that in order to really make it work.
“My views may not be reflective of the rest of the KSEC board, but I've seen our SET Challenge – how it works and feels in our school – and I really like it.”
Brocklebank said, based on his experience, there's room for major improvement with the STEM Challenge. He said the delivery should be modelled off of the KSEC model, not Actua's.
“We really need to get feedback from our schools, and if it comes back that this (STEM) needed some work or wasn't as easy to deliver, then I'll take that feedback back to Actua and promote our stuff,” he said.
“KSEC, as an organization, competes for funding with Actua and I've been around long enough to have been through the times when we didn't have enough money to run our events and had to really trim them back.
“When we have a company from the south offer science programming in our schools for two days, they breeze in, do some things, and breeze out.”
Brocklebank said local teachers are heavily invested in local communities and schools. “Our organization is a complete non-profit with no monetary perks for anyone,” he said. “And, the teachers who are our point people delivering our programming in our schools usually believe in what we're doing because, basically, our student base is all the same.”
Brocklebank said he will probably be recommending KSEC goes back to its own SET Challenge. He said he finds it easier to run programming that's designed in the North because it flows naturally.
“The whole idea of the SET Challenge is to be a fun activity that you can do either with your class or as a school,” he said.
“The SET Challenge has been a lot of fun at our school and that's not something I want to lose.
“I don't want to lose touch with what promotes science in our school.”