Outreach program promotes STEM to local Indigenous students

Posted on Monday, April 10, 2017

The Faculty’s Outreach program, along with partner Actua, celebrated the successful completion of their pilot STEM educational initiative for local Indigenous high school students.

Justine working with students

Justine Boudreau, instructor at the uOttawa Makerspace, instructing students

As part of Actua’s national Indigenous Youth in STEM program (InSTEM), the Engineering Design and Social Change program was piloted late last year at Gloucester High School and included students from Rideau High School.

3d printed objects

3d printed objects combined with traditional aboriginal objects

The project enabled Indigenous students to experience STEM through the lens of both Indigenous cultural knowledge, and western science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The goal of the project was to create learning environments where Indigenous students see themselves being successful within the STEM fields of study, while also providing cross-cultural learning experiences for participating non-Indigenous students.

Through hands-on experiences, students engaged with new technologies like 3D printing and laser cutting and then went on to create products aimed at addressing social issues affecting their community.

Through the InSTEM program, we have a unique opportunity to connect and build lasting relationships with Indigenous youth throughout their high school journey. By ensuring Indigenous youth see themselves represented within the program, and by demonstrating connections and cultural relevance of the program content, Indigenous students are more likely to see their own potential for higher learning,” said Doug Dokis, Senior Advisor for Actua’s InSTEM program.

Designed to have a regular and ongoing presence in the participating high schools, the InSTEM Engineering Design and Social Change program can be adapted to meet the needs and knowledge of local Indigenous communities and STEM learning objectives of individual schools.

The program also provides a unique opportunity for Elders and knowledge keepers to share their knowledge and worldviews in order to demonstrate the synergies between Indigenous and Western perspectives of engineering and science. Justine Boudreau, instructor at the Makerspace, added:

Working with the students has been wonderful. It has been great working alongside and learning from the Elders; the students are also captivated by the teachings and apply their new knowledge to our project. Their enthusiasm is contagious and will lead to a successful completion of this program.

Our Interim Dean of the Faculty, Ioan Nistor, concurred:

I strongly believe that this new InSTEM program will be beneficial to all participants, by connecting our student instructors from our Engineering Outreach team to Indigenous youth hopefully feeding their curiosity for STEM and inspiring them to pursue post-secondary education. Our students will also greatly benefit from this initiative from exchanging with Indigenous youth, Elders and knowledge keepers.

Building off the success of this first pilot initiative, the program is already laying the groundwork for continued delivery at Gloucester High School and beyond to other interested schools in 2017.

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