Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre’s Indigenous STEAM Camp received a boost from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in the form of $75,000 in funding over three years.
The camp, which is designed for students from Grades 1 – 3 and 4 – 6, gives children the opportunity to participate in activities that combine Indigenous knowledge with other departments at The University of Winnipeg, including chemistry, physics, computer science, and biology.
“To have the NSERC PromoScience funding for three years gives the program security,” said Angeline Nelson, Director of Community Learning and Engagement at Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre. “All of our programs are externally funded or run based on grants and donations, so to have this is huge for the centre.”
When the camp first originated, it was math focused. However, since Nelson arrived at the Centre, she’s shifted the focus to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). Now with $25,000 allotted for each of the next three camps, she wants to take that to the next level.
“We recognized there’s been a lot of STEAM or STEM camps for older kids, but there wasn’t a lot for younger kids. We thought it was important to engage kids at a young age,” she explained. “With the NSERC money, it allows us to incorporate more coding and computer science with Indigenous knowledge.”
This year the camp is split into separate two-week sessions for each age group. In total, there will be 30 students participating in each session.
But camp isn’t just about academia — Nelson said it’s the perfect opportunity to also teach students about Indigenous knowledge and history so they can be proud of their heritage.
“As a First Nations person, I think about the kind of impact I want to have on children in the community and I want them to understand that Indigenous knowledge includes science in many forms,” she said. “I think the narrative that’s being taught about Indigenous people in grade school isn’t always accurate — this camp is an opportunity to shift that narrative for Indigenous children, so they can be proud of where they come from.”
Wii Chiiwaakanak’s Indigenous STEAM Camp officially starts on July 29 and runs until August 23.