Northwestern Ontario youth will have more opportunities to go hands-on with science, tools and technology through an expansion of Science North in Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls.

Municipal leaders joined Science North representatives, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and Kenora MP Eric Melillo in a grand opening event last week at Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls’ Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre.

Rickford, who also serves as the Minister of Northern Development, says the new Northern Nature Exchange program is a permanent experience that offers exploration, discovery and fun for all ages.

“This is something to get young people engaged in what’s around them. It’s an amazing program. It’s brought Science North to our region. To have it in Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, kids can go down there and discover if there’s anything different down there. And it brings out volunteers. It warms my heart.”

The Minister explains that the program allows youth to collect natural objects, learn about them and bring them to the exchange in return for points. Youth can then use their points to ‘purchase’ natural objects from other Ontario ecosystems – giving them the chance to learn about other regions.

“We are pleased to partner with Science North to host the Northern Nature Exchange at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre,” said Acting Mayor Gale Black. “This new exhibit is a great fit with our centre and the programming it offers filly a need for family-friendly programming in our community.”

This is now the sixth Northern Exchange Program in Ontario, with more coming soon through funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the federal government.

“The Exchange encourages everyone to examine, learn and share information about their surroundings and provides a new experience for the community to come together around,” said Interim CEO of Science North, Jennifer Booth. “We look forward to providing Sioux Narrows a new reason to explore the wonders of their own backyard.”

Earlier this year, the NOHFC and Science North announced a $1 million, 4,000 square foot expansion of the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre to grow Kenora’s Science North programming with a third permanent exhibit. Rickford says he hopes to see shovels in the ground within the next year.

Kenora’s current exhibits include a Northern Nature Traders Exchange program and a THINK Hub which focuses on STEM fields and hands-on experiences with tools, materials and more. Admission is free at the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre.

Science North offers science-based programming, camps, exhibits, summer youth programming and economic development opportunities tailed to youth and the general public. Science North has been offering youth the opportunity to get hands-on with science, tools and technology since 1987.