Since 2007 Parks Canada has been delivering a program in Tuktoyaktuk called “Pingo Pride”. The grade six students of Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik and the grade six students of Mangilaluk School in Tuktoyaktuk participate each year. Parks Canada thought it was important that local students learn about pingos, what they mean to the region and what we can do to protect them.
The program explains to students that their local pingos and surrounding environment is a rare and unusual landscape. The Tuktoyaktuk peninsula houses the largest concentration of pingos in the world including Ibyuk Pingo, one of the largest on Earth. Ibyuk Pingo is showing signs of natural collapse. The protection of Ibyuk is very important to avoid accelerating its collapse.
Pingos are ice-cored hills covered with soil and vegetation. If the removal of vegetation exposes soil, the soil temperature rises, leading to melting of ice in the sediments and soil slumping. Slumps expose more permafrost to warming and more slumping. Eventually the ice core will be exposed and the pingo will collapse. We are not able to control nature but we are able to control human impact. Students learn that if they don't snowmobile or ATV on the pingos they are helping to protect them.
The program was designed with three components. The first component is an in-class visit from Parks Canada staff to introduce the Pingo Canadian Landmark. This visit gives students the basic understanding of what a pingo is and how a pingo is formed.
In the second component all grade six students from SAMS school are divided into two groups and the program runs for two days for each group. The first group arrives in Tuktoyaktuk off the ice road. They set up in the school and have lunch with the Tuk students. After lunch the students are brought out to Split Pingo by snowmobile and sled. At the pingo there is a heated wall tent provided for students to warm up and get a cup of hot chocolate. During the afternoon one half of the students go sliding on the pingos while the other half participate in wide games. These games are very active and a fun way to learn about relationships between plants and animals, and to learn more about the permafrost and tundra ecosystem where pingos are found.
The students are brought back to the school at five for dinner. After dinner we all dress up and walk across Tuktoyaktuk Harbour for our evening marshmallow roast on the beach. Along the way the students get to explore Tuk. We stop at the Sod house, the community icehouse, the old schooner, the Lady of Lourdes, which used to gather up kids from all the communities to go to the Catholic residential school in Aklavik every year, and the Trans Canada Trail monument. The students get some really great opportunities to connect with each other creating strong friendships.
The last component of the program happens the next morning, where we end the program with a promotion of the pingos activity. The question we ask is “how would you promote the pingos, to help protect them”? The students every year answer this question with pride. Their ideas include posters, radio announcements, t-shirts, coffee mugs, backpacks and more. Every year we design a poster with all their ideas and post them up at the schools.
This is some of their work:
Pingo Canadian Landmark Stamp© Parks Canada
Protect the Pingos Coffee Mug© Parks Canada
Pingo Pride Poster© Parks Canada