Nunavik science projects explore light therapy, power, traditional medicine
Four Nunavik students to represent region at Quebec fair in late March
It took hours of planning and construction, but Salluit high school student Jeannie Puxley said all the work she put into her science fair project paid off when she saw how proud her parents were.
It didn’t hurt that Puxley also won the regional science fair competition last week, which gathered about 50 Kativik School Board student projects from across the region in Salluit’s Ikusik school gym Feb. 25 and 26.
Puxley took top honours for her homemade light therapy system — a booth fitted with LED lights and closed off with white drapes.
“A lot of our teachers and other Qallunaat get hit really hard by the darkness,” said the Secondary 5 student. “A few teachers even bring their own boxes [from the South] so I thought I’d try to make my own.”
The final product is a walk-in booth that one adult can stand or sit in, although Puxley said while it was on display at the fair, she saw three children squeeze into it. Puxley’s research suggests that sitting in the booth for about 40 minutes a day can help make up for the lack of sunlight during the winter months.
Puxley said she was “amazed” when she was awarded top prize for her project, but she’s thrilled and looking forward to representing Nunavik at the upcoming Quebec Aboriginal Science Fair in Wendake, the Huron community located near Quebec City.
She’ll be joined by her fellow students, and cousins, Ken Cameron and Adamie Kiatainak, who placed third in the science fair for the battery the pair built using household materials.
Kiatainak said the Secondary 1 students used youtube.com to research what materials they needed to make the battery, finally settling on a pop can wrapped in a copper sheet and filled with salt water.
“People were pretty excited when the saw us using the battery to turn a mini fan,” said Cameron. “It made us pretty excited about science.”
Inukjuak student Sarah Khan took a more traditional approach to her project, which won second place at the science fair.
“I thought it would be interesting to know what medicine elders used before the nursing station opened, and it just went from there,” said the 14-year-old.
Khan based her research at the elders’ home in Inukjuak, where she interviewed six elders who were born and spent their youth on the land.
She found that seal fat was commonly used for different ailments; a thin piece applied to cuts or the grease applied to the face and chest to treat colds and flu.
Plants and berries were used to treat asthma by applying crushed mixtures to the chest; other plants were boiled to make tea to put on the eyes to treat snow blindness. Inuit also ate warm cranberries to cure stomach aches, Khan said.
“But the weirdest one I found was dog fat used on frostbite,” she said.
The last question Khan asked elders was if they now preferred traditional or modern remedies, to which most said they use both.
While most elders had been treated by nurses and doctors throughout their adulthood, many still use traditional medicines when they can.
The Quebec Aboriginal Science Fair will be hosted in Wendake, March 25 and March 26.