NORDIK Institute is launching its new Aki Kikinomakaywin (Field-Based Learning) program, which provides hands-on Indigenous science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) training to Indigenous youth.
The program will run for a week in July at Lakehead University and Confederation College in Thunder Bay.
Aki Kikinomakaywin is a women and Indigenous led program that teaches Indigenous youth from First Nations communities across Northern Ontario Indigenous ways of knowing and being by learning on the land through the use of scientific techniques Western.
Aki Kikinomakaywin will host a week-long camp in Thunder Bay at Lakehead University and Confederation College this summer 2022. The program is free for youth ages 12-14 and covers all accommodation, transportation and food. In future years, programs will be delivered in Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.
Youth participating in the program will learn from local Elders, water walkers and knowledge holders about Indigenous water laws and governance, as well as how to complete an Indigenous Impact Assessment using the Ways of Knowing and to be indigenous. Youth will learn to code sensors to gather environmental data and learn how Western science techniques can be used to support Indigenous science, while growing more confident in university and college settings.
“The elders said that we must teach our young people on the land. Mother Earth is our educational system, she is our pharmacy, our kitchen, our everything. By learning about the land, our youth will understand that it is everything to us,” said Dr. Susan Bell-Chiblow, Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph, NORDIK Research Associate and Anishinaabekwe of Garden River First Nation, who is a co-Leader on the program.
“Young people will learn that we all come from the water and that we must protect the waters. They will come to understand that water is life, that it is full of spirit and that it is medicine. They will understand that as Anishinaabek we have always done science. It will give them confidence in who they are and potentially help them with their career decisions,” Dr Chiblow said.
Aki Kikinomakaywin is led by an advisory group of Indigenous women who are all leaders in education and in their communities.
This advisory group is led by Marnie Yourchuk, Education Program Manager at Mamaweswen, The North Shore Tribal Council; Erin Desjardins is a stewardship intern at Matawa and Four Rivers, as well as an M.Sc. candidate at Lakehead University; Lisa Harris is coordinator of the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship Program at Lakehead University; Mary Wabano-McKay is Vice President of Nyaagaaniid, Anishinabe Initiatives, Equity and Student Success at Algoma University; Nicole Nicolas-Bayer is the director of Mukwa Waakaa’igan at Algoma University; Carolyn Hepburn is the Dean of Indigenous Studies and Academic Upgrading at Sault College, and finally Jasmine Baxter is an Environmental Technician in Matawa and Four Rivers who is also completing her Honors BA. in Environmental Science from Lakehead University.
Dr. Gayle Broad, Professor Emeritus at Algoma University and Research Associate at the NORDIK Institute, also played a key role in developing the program.
Aki Kikinomakaywin is also fortunate to partner with Water First and Let’s Talk Science to deliver engaging western science activities focused on water and coding.
“Aki Kikinomakaywin is an important program that aims to help First Nations youth across Northern Ontario discover careers in STEAM,” said Haley MacLeod, Ph.D. Lakehead University candidate and co-lead from the program.
“Enabling young people to learn from local Elders and Knowledge Holders will provide a unique opportunity to engage young people in their own knowledge systems and future career opportunities. I am excited to help bring young people to the land and into the lab and to provide more educational opportunities in the North,” said MacLeod.
Applications and additional information are available on the program website at akikikinomakaywin.com.
The NORDIK Institute is delighted to contribute to this program. This program will benefit Indigenous youth in Northern Ontario by providing unique learning opportunities and providing a model for future land-based learning opportunities in the region.