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Symposium gives new perspective of Lake Superior to students

The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - Seventy local high school students got some new perspectives on preserving their region's largest natural resource May 14-17, when they joined peers from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario for the 11th Biennial Lake Superior Youth Symposium in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

"Lots of other kids had different problems in their communities, big and small," sophomore Maya Urban said Sunday, shortly after stepping off a bus full of Houghton High School students returning from Thunder Bay at the Copper Country Intermediate School District in Hancock. Some communities, for example, were dealing with pollution from mining, she said, while others were focused on protecting fishing industries.

"Everyone had the same goal of saving Lake Superior," said Josie Ledgerwood, also a sophomore.
"I've never experienced the Native culture I experienced with this program," added junior Olivia Lohmann. Students were given Ojibwa names and the chance to play both Native American drums and some from throughout the world, she said, and they also learned about native perspectives and strategies toward conservation.
"We all noted that difference in Thunder Bay, the emphasis on native Ojibwa culture," said Joan Chadde, who led the local delegation. She said Ojibwa tribal leaders participated each day, and topics included aboriginal science and technology, and ethnobotany.
Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach and program coordinator for the Western UP Center for Science, Math, and Environmental Education, has attended all 11 Symposia, and hosted two of them at Michigan Tech.
For this symposium, she brought along students from Houghton, Lake Linden-Hubbell and Jeffers. Jeffers teacher Cindy McCormick, she noted, had first attended the symposium as a student and now was bringing her own students on the trip.
Chadde said the local delegation was supported financially by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, the Keweenaw Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council and each of the schools that sent students. The symposium was hosted by Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate & Vocational School, Lakehead University and Confederation College.
The symposium is open to seventh- through 12th-graders, and Houghton science teacher Lauri Davis said many of her students had attended at least twice.

"We had a couple of seniors who chose Canada over their last day of high school," she said. "The kids learn, they have fun and they get inspired to do things. It changes kids."

Students also got to see some of the unique natural and man-made features of the Thunder Bay area, from an amethyst mine and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to Fort William Historical Park, where re-enactors demonstrated the lifestyles of both Native Americans and French voyageurs during the early days of European settlement in the region.
Students also walked the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Canada, Chadde said, though Urban was even more impressed by the natural wonder of Kakabeca Falls, the second largest falls in Ontario after Niagara Falls.

"It was amazing," she said.

While students spent most of their time mixed with youth from Ontario and other states - about 150 total students attended, Chadde said - they also spent time with their own schoolmates, working on the beginnings of an action plan to improve their own school or community.

"Ours was to compost food (at Houghton High), so we don't throw away food that's not eaten at lunch," said sophomore Kate Woodford. "We want to have a garden to use it, and sell the extra compost to other farmers, so there's less food waste."

Urban said she'd made new friends, and the institute had been a great experience. She was hoping to attend again in 2015, when the symposium will be held in Duluth, Minnesota, and to focus her education on the sciences that can protect the waters.

"They taught us that even one person can make a difference," she said.

"Students learn about environmental stewardship" that includes an interview w/ Cindy McCormick and Jeffers High School student, Haley Makela: CLICK HERE