NationTalk: In January 2023, Algoma University and the Mattagami First Nation (MFN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on unique projects focusing on Indigenous youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM), as well as Community Based Education and Training (CBET). This summer, in collaboration with Canadore College, twenty Indigenous youth from the MFN participated in the inaugural land camp: Waawaaskonwe Niigaan.
Waawaaskonwe Niigaan translates to “there is a light ahead.” Algoma University’s inaugural land camp is designed to support Indigenous elementary and high school students in their transition to post-secondary education, with a focus on increasing access for Indigenous women and learners in the STEAM fields. Students will also engage in cultural traditional teachings and ways of knowing in relation to land-based environments and experiential learning. Waawaskonwe Niigaan provides a learning experience that brings creativity and the arts together with culture and on-the-land activities in a welcoming and safe space for all participants.
“The Algoma University STEAM land camp was a great success,” said Chad Boissoneau, Mattagami First Nation Chief. “Our youth were engaged and learned a lot about STEAM programming and hopefully, this will encourage some of them to pursue educational opportunities in these areas. We look forward to continuing and expanding this partnership by hosting future STEAM land camps in our community.”
The camp is open to Indigenous youth aged 13 to 17, with participants receiving volunteer community hours towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma upon successful completion.
The first instalment of the camps took place from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4, 2023, in Mattagami First Nation. Students took part in learning activities like drum making, digital skills, traditional plant and tree identifications, circle of courage, DNA 3D beading, science of nature connection and more. Future camps will be accredited 11-day STEAM land camps for Indigenous learners, beginning in the summer of 2024. Future programming will expand to include Algoma University campuses in Brampton and Sault Ste. Marie, as well as regions across the province.
“It was a great experience being on the land in the Mattagami First Nation for the inaugural STEAM land camp,” said Paul Sayers, manager of Indigenous Community Relations, Training and Development at Algoma University. “Working alongside Canadore College, Mattagami and their community in the development and delivery of this camp highlights the importance and benefits of building strong relationships.”
The primary objectives of the collaboration are to:
- Increase access to post-secondary education by providing opportunities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) youth to earn dual credits.
- Connect Indigenous youth to culturally based experiential learning opportunities, Elders, ceremony, language and other Indigenous youth.
- Respond to the educational needs of First Nation and urban Indigenous youth and communities.
- Empower Indigenous and underrepresented youth historically underrepresented in higher education.
- Inform students who have the potential to excel but have been facing systemic barriers due to socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, family history or various other factors.