Students get 'authentic learning experience' after grizzly wanders into Nunavut community
‘Kids were running down the halls to come and see this bear,’ says teacher
Students in Kugluktuk, Nunavut were treated to a unique learning opportunity this week after a grizzly bear wandered into the community.
According to the territorial Department of Environment, the bear came into the community on Sept. 16 and was a safety risk to residents; it was tracked and shot by a local hunter early Monday morning.
Upon learning about the harvest, Michael Valk, who runs the outdoor education program at Kugluktuk High School, arranged for the grizzly to be brought to the school.
"Right off the bat there was a lot of excitement," he said. "A lot of the children here hear about the bears, but not many of them have seen them."
Valk said that as they brought the bear to the school, kids stopped them on the road to take photos. The bear was ushered into the school by a crowd of excited students.
"Kids were running down the halls to come and see this bear that was in the school asking what we were going to do with it."
In the school library, two elders skinned and butchered the bear for students to see, while environment officers answered questions.
About 150 students from the high school and nearby Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik Elementary School were gathered, Valk said.
Elders explained the young bear came into town looking for food before going into hibernation. They told the students because of the early winter, there haven't been as many berries to eat this year and siksiks or ground squirrels have started to go underground.
"It's a very genuine and authentic learning experience for them and to be able to sort of see something come in off the land and harvested was quite a very authentic and real thing for them," said high school teacher Liam Clarke.
He said the fur and meat from the bear will now be used by the community. Some people have already taken meat while the rest is being stored in the community freezer.
"Some of the kids were blown away when the elders said, 'Let's not waste this meat, cut this meat up there are still people in the community who eat grizzly bear meat'," said Valk.
Seventh grade student Caleb Bolt was among those who watched the event and helped skin the bear with his uncle. He said "it was just like skinning a caribou."
Bolt said his classmates were "amazed, saying, 'Oh, awesome.'"
Bolt said his favourite part was when the wildlife officer used the bear's teeth to determine that it was around two years old. Bolt even took home the bullet from the bear.
He said he likes when they have opportunities like these. Last year students harvested and skinned seals which he said were stinky.
"We get to learn more of our culture and how they did it long ago."
With files from Wanda McLeod and Rachel Zelniker