Over the years, as our nation becomes increasingly invested in questions of health and conservation, it has become apparent that a gap exists in the social framework of our community. A lack of local training and expertise means our community must rely almost exclusively on imported employees in the fields of health, forestry, and biology.
As our nation negotiates for independent management of the community’s resources and entities, we believe it’s important to bring community members to the forefront of the work being accomplished. However, we at Qqs recognize the challenges faced by remote First Nations schools in providing comprehensive math and science programs, let alone the challenges of providing an infrastructure for developing and building on skill sets in related fields.
Our objective is clear: we need to interest First Nations youth in science and health careers at an early enough age that they can take all the necessary pre-requisite classes in high school. Then, when they begin to invest in education at the post-secondary level, we need to offer a support framework that will help them succeed with their endeavours. The first step happens now!
For these reasons and many more, Qqs is pleased to be involved in the development and implementation of the SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) Community Initiative, a partnership of many organizations in the Great Bear Rainforest and beyond. This new program creates opportunities for young people to get engaged in math and science through fieldwork and technology, with 2010 marking the pilot year for the program in the Heiltsuk and Gitga’at Nations.
Qqs is committed to the vision of the SEAS Community Initiative as a long-term institution in our community: we have committed to an initial 5-year program which will be evaluated at the end toward the development of a more permanent investment. We anticipate cohorts of participants that will carry on as they move through the stages of their education, mentoring younger students as their study progresses until the program is self-supporting. For Qqs, this builds on the success achieved by our stewardship camps in Koeye through a model of long-term investment in youth educational and leadership capacity building.
Qqs’ role is in the implementation of a summer field program called the SEAS Internship. In 2011, four Heiltsuk students worked in the community and in the field on a variety of project-based initiatives being undertaken by our Coastwatch field technicians. Students work with remote cameras and exciting new technology such as SmartBoards as they launch into hands-on research and monitoring in the field. Under the mentorship of a SEAS Internship Coordinator and our Coastwatch crew, interns participate in activities like sea mammal surveys, bird surveys, eelgrass surveys, deer pellet surveys, shoreline and cover type groundtruthing, intertidal monitoring, and many other and a number of other activities that foreground the practical applications of a career in science. The interns wrap up with a self-directed research project and report prepared under the guidance of our field crew.
Youth interns bring their new expertise back to the community through the Koeye Cafe, which broadcasts live feeds from the remote cameras and uses the SmartBoard technology to present the data gathered by the interns in a dynamic new way. The youth gain practical skills and experience in field work and scientific study, which they bring back to the school in the autumn as they return to their classrooms (already stocked with advanced and exciting technology and learning opportunities through broader SEAS Community Initiative educational programs).
Our community relies every day on the expertise of people trained in the sciences: whether in fisheries, salmon enhancement, forestry, health and medical, education or management and decision-making, all of our local entities will benefit from encouraging the education and development of Heiltsuk leaders who can meet Heiltsuk needs. Qqs Projects is committed to building local capacity to this end, and we believe the SEAS Community Initiative is an important first step in engaging our youth with the incredible opportunities for a brighter future of our nation.
SEAS Community Initiative is a partnership of Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, the Bella Bella Community School, Pacific Wild, Cetacealab, the Hartley Bay School, the Gitga’at Land and Resources Stewardship Society, the American Museum of Natural History and The Nature Conservancy.