Program makes science and math fun and relevant for Indigenous youth
U of S students go out to elementary schools for hands-on science and math activities
Playing with robots, building volcanoes and breeding paper frogs.
Those are just some of the techniques a University of Saskatchewan summer program is using to get kids excited about science.
The Nutrien Kamiskénow (Cree for learn together) program is making science fun and culturally relevant for young students in more than 50 classrooms around Saskatoon.
"We employ university students who go out in pairs into community schools in the city," said Lana Elias, Director of Science Outreach at the University of Saskatchewan and head of Kamiskénow.
"They bring out exciting, hands-on science and math activities to get kids excited," she said.
The program also works with Elders to make the program more culturally relevant and make connections between Indigenous ways of knowing and western science concepts.
"In community schools the majority of students are Indigenous student," Elias said. "And there is certainly an underrepresentation of Indigenous people in the sciences. That's where we really want to support reconciliation and support education in these schools. To ensure that all people have access to engaging and hands-on ways of learning science and seeing that science is reflected in their lives."
Breeding paper frogs
For example, a genetics lesson they teach where kids breed origami frogs.
The kids get to choose the physical characteristics of their baby frog. "Whether to have spots or not, large or small, what colour it's eyes are," Elias said. "Then they create the origami frog."
They connect the activity by showing a video how indigenous people have bred sled dogs and horses to optimize success for travel and transportation.
The 13-week program is free and elementary teachers get to learn along with the students so they can teach those activities in their regular classes.
"The last week we bring all the kids to campus and bring them into the labs and get them to experience what it's like to be a university student," Elias said.
The program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It started out going to one classroom at Pleasant Hill Community School and this year they are in 50 classrooms teaching 1,000 children..