Iqaluit school boosts attendance 20 per cent with blended cultural programs

From an average attendance rate of about 60 per cent, the principal of Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School led a push to foster creative and culturally relevant programming for students.
Grade 11 students at Kugaardjuq School in Kugaaruk, a small community in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region, will be among the school's Grade 4-12 students taking part in a student council election on Oct. 14. ((Courtesy of Jo-Ann MacDonald))
Aqsarniit principal Don Peters discusses the alternative programming necessary for engaging students at his middle school in Iqaluit. 3:18
Don Peters, principal of Aqsarniit Middle School. (Tamara Pimentel/CBC)
Don Peters is the principal of the Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School in Iqaluit. In the past seven years that he's held the position, he's put his efforts towards finding programs that engage students and improve the attendance rates.

"The attendance rates seven years ago were hovering around 60-62 per cent. Today, our attendance rates are 86 per cent for this month, with a peak of 89 per cent this year of 2016. So we're very excited about the advances we've made," said Peters.

We try to be the most entertaining and the most exciting activity that's happening here in Iqaluit.- Don Peters, principal of the Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School

The types of programs the school offers cover after school clubs, sciences classes spent out on the land, and shop classes teaching students the skills to repair everyday equipment, like snowmobiles. 

"Going out on the ice in the qamutiiks and Skidoos involves a lot of skills: it requires knowing how to get there; how to be safe; how to load qamutiiks; how to repair Skidoos--these are the type of things that are traditional knowledge that we share when we work with the kids." said Peters.

Getting out on the land and onto the ice is an interactive activity that stimulates students' interests. "One of the big areas that children love are our land programs," said Peters.

"Our land programs right now are running every day that we can get out. For instance, if the temperatures drop to -26 C we're able to get out onto the Frobisher Bay. But if they are at -40 C or we have blizzards, we cancel. So we're averaging about two days week."

In addition to these interactive land programs, the school uses video conferencing technology to link classrooms to their Southern counterparts and guest speakers across the country. It all amounts to the goal that Peters has developed for the school: "We try to be the most entertaining and the most exciting activity that's happening here in Iqaluit."

With an attendance increase of over 20 per cent in seven years, the numbers show that these programs are paying off.

Join us on Sunday March 6, 2016 to hear some students of Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik School discuss their own experiences, live on Cross Country Checkup from Iqaluit.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.