The University of Winnipeg



Wii Chiiwaakanak prepares for annual Indigenous STEAM Summer Camp

A student listens to his heartbeat with a stethoscope.

A student in last year’s Indigenous STEAM Summer Camp listens to his own heartbeat with a stethoscope.

The Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre is preparing for its largest Indigenous STEAM Summer Camp yet.

I always like to highlight how accessible this camp is and that creating equitable opportunities is a definite priority.

Angeline Nelson

The camp, which is designed for students in Grades 1 to 8, gives children the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, while incorporating Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture as much as possible.

Over the course of four weeks, the camp is hosting Grades 1 to 3 and 4 to 6 students from July 10 to 14, July 17 to 21, and July 24 to 28, followed by Grades 3 to 5 and 6 to 8 students from July 31 to August 4.

Angeline Nelson, Wii Chiiwaakanak’s Director of Community Learning and Engagement, says 215 students have registered for the annual camp and the new addition of Grades 6 to 8 students in the fourth week is all thanks to a new $10,000 USD donation from Boeing.

“It’s exciting to engage Grades 7 and 8 students in our summer camp, because at that age they are starting to think about their future,” Nelson said. “With high school around the corner, the potential for them to be Model School students is there. Similarly, the idea they could be UWinnipeg students in a few short years is incredible to think about.”

“This partnership reflects Boeing’s commitment to the Winnipeg community,” said Kathleen Garney, General Manager of Boeing Winnipeg. “We are excited about the combination of STEAM subjects and traditional Indigenous knowledge. These camps will provide a solid foundation for Indigenous youth to build on their own unique strengths and hopefully be inspired to pursue a career in a STEAM field in the future. Our local talent pipeline benefits greatly from this type of program.”

Nelson also says the continued funding support through the Government of Canada’s CanCode program and the Winnipeg Foundation will allow them to sustain the growth of the camp year after year.

Combining Indigenous knowledge with STEAM

Indigenous knowledge keepers will be sharing traditional knowledge about many topics, including native plants, traditional medicines and harvesting, creation stories, traditional food, games, and more.

Students will also take part in activities such as digital media creation (creating short videos), learning about special effects, introductory coding, engineering-based activities like rocket building and launching, 3D design and printing, and other fun workshops with UWinnipeg faculty.

“Thanks to our partnership in hosting STEM Day, Dr. Tabitha Wood has helped us to engage some amazing faculty members to be a part of the camp,” Nelson said. “We’re looking forward to having faculty lead sessions that will take them all over campus to do water testing, chemistry experiments in the labs, and aging some of the trees in front of Wesley Hall.”

Representation matters

Nelson says she’s most looking forward to having fun with the students and making them feel a sense of belonging at the University from a young age.

Angeline Nelson standing in front of an Indigenous painting

Angeline Nelson is the Director of Community Learning and Engagement at Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre.

“The youth see themselves represented in the camp leaders, the teachers, and the facilitators,” she said. “We create a safe space where they can build an early connection with UWinnipeg staff and faculty who volunteer to lead different kinds of workshops.”

And representation is what’s most important.

Wii Chiiwaakanak specifically recruits participants by putting up posters in the Aboriginal Centre, Spence Neighbourhood Association, local schools, and other community organizations in the area, so they can reach groups that don’t always have access to these types of opportunities.

Nelson recalled stories of supporting families to participate in their camps:

“I’m proud our team understands the importance and impact of reaching students for whom fees, transportation, or food might be barriers. I always like to highlight how accessible this camp is and that creating equitable opportunities is a definite priority.”

Learn more about Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre’s annual Indigenous STEAM Summer Camp.