McGill Engineering youth outreach program awarded NSERC PromoScience grant

Project makes learning science more equitable and inclusive for Indigenous youth
Students building model birch bark canoes as part of a multidisciplinary project. Credit: E-IDEA team / Les élèves construisent des modèles réduits de canoës en écorce de bouleau dans le cadre d'un projet multidisciplinaire. Photo : L'équipe E-IDEA
Image by E-IDEA team / L'équipe E-IDEA.
Students building shelters using the design cycle at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School. Credit: E-IDEA team / Des étudiants construisent des abris à Kahnawà:ke Survival School. Photo : L'équipe E-IDEA
ChangeMakers Youth Conference at McGill (fall 2019). Credit: E-IDEA team / Conférence jeunesse ChangeMakers à McGill (automne 2019). Photo : L'équipe E-IDEA
Published: 9 June 2021

Education that changes outcomes for whole communities—that’s the aim of the project, Engineering Engagement in School Curricula: Multi-year Design-thinking Projects for Indigenous and Marginalized Youth, led by Professor and Chair of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, Richard Chromik, Faye Siluk, and Robert Pozeg of the Faculty of Engineering’s E-IDEA initiative (Engineering Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity Advancement), which today received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) PromoScience grants program.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, made the announcement today that over $12 million will be available to fund numerous projects across Canada in support of hands-on learning experiences aimed at engaging the next generation of scientists and research leaders.

In receiving support through this program for their project, the E-IDEA team, together with members of the Faculty of Engineering and Enrolment Services’ Branches Community Outreach Program, have partnered with two local schools—Kahnawà:ke Survival School, in Kahnawà:ke, and Beurling Academy, in Verdun—to launch the project. By building relationships and developing a culturally relevant pedagogy, the goal is to increase high school students’ access to —and success in— science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through long-term partnership opportunities.

Helping students extend STEM learning beyond the classroom will be supported by honouring multiple ways of knowing, bridging Western-based science learning with traditional Indigenous or community-based teachings. Students will be immersed in fun and creative learning experiences both in their classes and in their communities. McGill faculty and students, along with community knowledge holders, will introduce students in grades seven through nine to “design thinking” and support project-based learning alongside classroom teachers.

“For many youths, pursuing learning in STEM subjects is an uphill battle due to persisting inequity and underrepresentation”, says Chromik. “Our program understands that it is important for science educators to be able to recognize and integrate students’ experiences, helping them to self-identify as innovative makers and creators. This project, collaborating with Branches, will allow us to strengthen our Youth Action and Outreach initiative, which partners with local schools and communities to help diverse populations gain better access to higher education and civic engagement.”

Over the next 3-5 years, the project aims to develop complementary pedagogy and activities for students in grades 10 and 11, to continue their engagement with design thinking through work-study opportunities, specialized training opportunities, and other experiences, such as multi-community projects and internships that prepare them for post-secondary education.

This is one of several projects under Faculty of Engineering's E-IDEA initiative. “E-IDEA aims to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community both within and outside the Faculty of Engineering. We are excited to be able to continue to support this initiative and help make McGill more accessible and inclusive for all,” says Dean of Engineering, Professor Jim Nicell.

In 2017, the Faculty of Engineering won the McGill Award for Equity and Community Building for E-IDEA. Since 2017, through other PromoScience grants – notably a previous Faculty of Engineering partnership with the Kahnawà:ke Survival School, initiated by Professor Fabrice Labeau, and the Branches Outreach Program, the Faculty of Engineering has promoted STEM to youth in underrepresented populations. The Zeller Family Foundation and McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund are also currently supporting Branches’ Indigenous youth internship project.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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