Twenty-eight families in the Spence neighbourhood were the recipients of brand-new Chromebook laptops from the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre last month.
When we talk about providing equitable opportunities for families, access to technology has to be a part of that conversation, and providing that technology when we can, is so important.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Kingfisher Foundation, Angeline Nelson, Director of Community Learning and Engagement at Wii Chiiwaakanak, says they were able to support families with new technology to help them get through this difficult time.
“I met with the Kingfisher Foundation earlier this year to share some of the barriers families are facing and ideas on how we could address some of them,” she explained. “We knew that some of the families we work with struggle with remote learning and accessing other online learning opportunities. Immediately, they wanted to help.”
Even before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wii Chiiwaakanak already had a long and successful partnership with the Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA). After receiving funding to buy the laptops, the original goal was to distribute them to families in the SNA’s Building Belonging program later this summer.
However, after the Province of Manitoba announced a move to remote learning for all Winnipeg schools, Nelson thought it was a good idea to get this technology out to families, the same week that children transitioned to remote learning.
“When we talk about providing equitable opportunities for families, access to technology has to be a part of that conversation, and providing that technology when we can is so important,” Nelson explained. “Supporting families in this program through fun, hands-on STEM activities and now through this initiative is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Designed as an after-school program for children aged six to 12, the Building Belonging initiative helps youth develop a sense of ownership and belonging by fostering creativity, sharing cultures, taking part in local events, planting vegetables, or just playing together outside.
Program Coordinator Allison Besel explained that they serve mainly Indigenous and newcomer families living on limited incomes.
“They’ve shared with us the significant barriers they face to accessing online learning and programming because of the substantial cost of technology, internet and data fees, and the number of household members expected to go online for school, work, training, or resources,” Besel said. “Families were shocked, with giant smiles and shouts from the kids, when we showed up with (Program Coordinator) Julie Hiebert from the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre to deliver the Chromebooks.”
Over the course of the last year, the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre has continued their partnership with the Building Belonging program by donating recreational equipment, delivering holiday meals to share with families, and creating the Science Explorers at Home initiative.
Thanks to specially designed activity kits for Grade 3 – 6 students, Nelson says the centre is able to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through the new remote version of the program even during these uncertain times.
“Our team has been really creative in coming up with hands-on STEM experiments and activities that children can do each week,” Nelson said. “It’s been really fun for us in that way.”
Looking ahead to summer, Nelson says the centre has many big plans, but it all depends on the level of restrictions come July and August.
They have tentatively planned to partner with the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre to deliver coding workshops to all of their summer camp participants and have hired two students from the UWinnipeg chapter of the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society to help deliver sessions at more than six schools.
They are also hoping to host a summer camp on campus in August if restrictions are lifted.
“If it were to happen, 60 children in grades 1- 6 would be hosted out of two spaces on campus – the community classroom at Wii Chiiwaakank and at the Aabijijiwaan New Media Lab.”
To learn more about Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre’s programming, please visit their website.