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Immersive science program debuting for Indigenous high school students at UNBC

The six-week STEM focused program will begin this fall
Science Escape at UNBC
Program will offer a small group of students an opportunity to learn more about STEM.

A new immersive science program for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit high school students will make its debut this fall at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

Called “A Science Escape at UNBC” the program will offer a small group of six students from grades nine and 10 an opportunity to learn more about how scientific principles are embedded in everyday life and to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The initiative has received a three-year $93,600 grant through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience program and will also be supported by in-kind contributions through UNBC.

“We have chosen to focus on a very small group of students because we are looking at not just developing the students’ knowledge base but also their connections with each other and with program mentors, in order to build a continuing network of support,” said Malgorzata Kaminska, assistant professor in the Division of Medical Sciences at UNBC.

The program has been developed to run as an online course for six weeks, during after-school hours, and is intended to also include a one-week on-site visit to the UNBC campus in Prince George. However this may have to be modified pending COVID-19 provincial guidelines.

The camp aims to provide opportunities for participants to expand their STEM knowledge, grow their critical thinking skills and experience university and research lab life first-hand.

 “We have already been getting great support, and hope to get even more, from the UNBC community, through different departments as well as with grad students in STEM programs who will be helping with program design, some of whom are First Nations, Métis or Inuit themselves,”added Kaminska.

A Science Escape will initially draw students through recommendations from Indigenous liaisons at the School Districts in Quesnel, Prince George, and Nechako Lakes for its upcoming autumn roll-out with expansion planned to other school districts in northern B.C. as part of future programming goals.

“What is unique about our program is that we are not focusing just on traditional careers in STEM,” said Ann Duong, Master of Science student in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at UNBC.

She adds the program aims to empower participating students to think about how to create their own jobs and businesses that can arise from STEM principles.

“For example, if they see something in their local environment that concerns them and they have the knowledge from our program and their future studies to tackle it, then we hope to inspire them to pursue solutions through their own career avenues.”

The six-week program will offer daily virtually-delivered presentations as well remote hands-on activities such as experiments in a box that students will be able to do at home.

“We hope to give our participating students an in-depth look at different topics each week that continually build on their learning over the six weeks of the program, helping them to better understand how science is a part of their everyday lives,” explained Kaminska.

“A special goal of our camp is to unite Western knowledge with Indigenous ways of knowing by pairing a UNBC faculty member or graduate student with an Elder so each can share their unique perspectives on a particular topic.”

Duong noted that the program will be also be lending out electronic devises for students who need it to ensure all participants have equal access to learning.  

“We also want to help our students reach their own personal learning goals within the camp, so in our planning, we are working to ensure that we will have the ability to modify lesson plans in order to help reach the goals that each participant has set for themselves.”