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Wii Chiiwaakanak receives federal funding to support STEAM programming

The Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre has received Government of Canada funding to support their science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) outreach programming. 

Thanks to the CanCode program, Angeline Nelson, Director of Community Learning and Engagement, says the centre will receive $367,000 beginning January 25 to March 31, 2024.

We’re already working to build new partnerships with more local schools to ensure we’re reaching more students directly from the inner-city.

Angeline Nelson

The federal program aims to equip Canadian youth, with a focus on inclusion of underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies, including advanced digital skills and science, technology, engineering, and math courses, leading to the jobs of the future.

“This will allow us to continue offering our digital literacy programming, such as our Youtuber, animation, and coding programs, as well as Science Explorers and Science Kids on Campus,” Nelson said of the funding. “It will also support the growth of our Indigenous STEAM Camp in the summer, which we’re really excited about.”

The University of Winnipeg Foundation was a vital component and fundraising partner in support of Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre’s programming and services.

“One of the critical aspects of being part of The University of Winnipeg community is that we are not only a post-secondary institution, but also a neighbour and a friend to the urban community where we work and study,” said Javier Schwersensky, CEO, UWinnipeg Foundation. “When Angeline contacted us to assist in writing the CanCode grant application, we did not hesitate to say yes and give it our best effort.”

“Any programming connecting youth around us with opportunities to advance their academic knowledge and ability to excel is worth pursuing and we are humbled and thrilled to be part of it.”

Expanding STEAM programming

The annual summer camp, hosted on the University of Winnipeg campus, is for children and youth going into grades 1-6. All participants take part in activities that expose them to multiple areas of STEAM, including chemistry, physics, computer science, and biology, while also ensuring that Indigenous knowledge is weaved in.

“To drive our economic success for years to come, we must support young Canadians in the digital world. By investing in resources that teach students things like coding and data analytics, we are helping them gain the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century economy. These are the skills that will help them transition from the classroom to research labs, shop floors and boardrooms,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. 

Indigenous language and knowledge sharing around traditional medicines, star teachings, creation stories, traditional games, agricultural practices, and traditional structures are all part of the camp being designed with the local community in mind. Activities such as hands-on experiments, 3D design and printing, coding, engineering activities, dissections, green screen workshops, math lessons, and weekly field trips are also part of the camp.

“The Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre is an important pathway to post secondary education for all students. Our government is proud to invest in Wii Chiiwaakanak and be a partner in delivering educational and cultural programming rooted in Indigenous knowledge. Thank you to everyone involved in delivering this programming and paving the way for generations to come,” said The Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada, and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Last year, 56 students participated in the camp. However, Nelson says they’ll now be able to accommodate a minimum of 150 students that will be hosted in the community classroom at the Wii Chiwaakanak Learning Centre and at the Aabijijiwaan New Media Lab.

“It’s a huge relief for us to have multi-year funding to support our STEAM outreach and to expand our camp,” she said. “Over the last few years, our STEAM outreach had to be supported by many different funders, so we’re really looking forward to building on our digital literacy and STEAM programs.”

Nelson says she’s excited to give more children in the community the opportunity to take part in this program.

“We’re already working to build new partnership with more local schools to ensure we’re reaching more students directly from the inner-city,” she said. “With this program, the fun part is getting to be really creative each year bringing new opportunities to kids in every area of STEAM.”

“There are many needs that Wii Chiiwaakanak meets in our neighbourhood,” said Schwersensky, and I encourage anyone interested in supporting the Centre to learn more about the impact and the activities and maybe consider a donation to provide more opportunities to deserving youth in our community”

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