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Engaging Canada’s Northern Teachers in STEM and Digital Literacy

March 2, 2017

By Jenifer Spencer

Jenifer Spencer is Actua’s Manager of Outreach who leads the delivery of STEM workshops, camps and clubs across Nunavut.

As the Manager of Actua’s Outreach team, I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to the North several times a year to lead and deliver hands-on STEM experiences for local Indigenous youth. Most recently however, the team and I returned to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut to engage a different but equally important audience - teachers!

This years’ Kivalliq Teacher’s Conference was hosted at Maani Ulujuk High School where Actua’s Outreach team engaged K-12 teachers in STEM & digital literacy content inspired by the local community. Favourites from the sessions included an arctic fishes activity, a co-created workshop by the Actua’s content development team and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Teachers explored x-rays of Arctic fish species, provided by the Museum, and discussed the concept of structure and function as it relates to biology and life sciences

It is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to extend the impact of Actua’s model beyond what our instructors provide for youth in classroom workshops and week long camp experiences. While more and more schools are gaining ground with access to hardware and computer science learning tools, teachers ask us for hands-on learning opportunities that help them make cross-curricular connections with STEM. They need access to content that is relevant to Northern communities, and doable in a classroom setting. They want to integrate computational thinking skills and digital literacy into the curriculum without having to rely on connectivity or expensive equipment.

Teachers became students for a sorting activity, where they were asked to perform a seemingly simple algorithm to sort a series of colours. Teamwork and collaboration were key computational skills that had to be used in order to solve this problem!

Our team is hard at work meeting those objectives. Drawing from expertise within our network membership at 35 universities and colleges across Canada and corporate sector partners like Google and GE Canada, we are working on a northern strategy for supporting educators. For more than 16 years, we have demonstrated our ongoing commitment to meeting community needs in the North. We are so pleased to work with northern educators in an ongoing strategy to deepen the impact of hands-on experiential learning in STEM throughout the school year.