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ONC’s Science and Culture Camp means fish camps, time on the tundra, and joining biology with tradition

Kaylee King

This July, ONC is planning a Science and Culture Camp in collaboration with University of Alaska Fairbanks. The ten days are devoted to studying the natural world of the Y-K Delta for high-school students from the region. It’s free, and students can earn college credits.

Most of the activities include STEM classroom components, followed by time on the tundra.

“So we’re doing a Moose biology lesson with [the Alaska Department of Fish and Game], so they’re going to be talking about moose population management.” said ONC Natural Resources Technician Nia Long. She is organizing the camp. ”So we have our hunter who works for ONC. We're going to be applying for an educational cultural permit to harvest a moose, and then we're going to process it with the students.”

Students will also go to fish camp, where they’ll learn about its history and how to cut and dry fish with elders. Then the teens will learn from an ethnobotanist who works with the University of Alaska. Then she’ll bring the students out into the field to explore the medicinal properties of these plants.

“A lot of the ethnobotany is related to looking at traditional uses of these plants.” Long said. “So it's taking the general role of a botanist to study plant structure and use, and then also bringing in the cultural aspects and historical aspects of these plants into the lessons and education.”

Students who complete 28 hours of activities can receive 2 college credits through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. ONC and UAF staff worked together to design a curriculum that meets academic standards. They were intentional about tying together science learning and the historical importance of the environment in the culture, to show why they’re learning what they’re learning.

“I think it's important to integrate that with the important cultural aspects of, you know, salmon decline, why that's happening, how that impacts the Y-K Delta. The importance of salmon to the population in the communities here. So taking those things, and integrating them into an entire curriculum gives students not just a science based learning experience, but also then allows them to incorporate that into the history and culture of the area.” Long said.

Interested students and parents can contact Nia Long at or at 907-545-2005.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.