This summer, Algoma District School Board (ADSB), in partnership with Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, launched an Indigenous engineering, technology and innovation by design program for high school students.
This new program ran from July 18 to Aug.12 at WC Eaket Secondary School in Blind River.
According to the ADSB release, nine ADSB students participated in the inaugural run of the program, where they learned about traditional Indigenous engineering processes.
For more information, read the news release below:
This summer, Algoma District School Board (ADSB) and Lassonde School of Engineering at York University partnered to launch a new Indigenous engineering, technology and innovation by design program for high school students. This brand-new, work-integrated learning program took place from July 18 to Aug.12, 2022, at WC Eaket Secondary School in Blind River.
The program was co-developed by ADSB’s Bryan Bellefeuille, mathematics, STEM, Ojibwe language teacher at WC Eaket, and Lisa Cole, director of programming with Lassonde. The Lassonde School of Engineering k2i academy team travelled to Blind River to deliver the program, along with Jeffrey Harris, undergraduate program director and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Lassonde.
“For the past year, we had been in conversations with Bryan and collaborating to strengthen our relationship with the community and ensure that the program design and implementation were truly connected to Bryan’s vision for Indigenous engineering and STEM education,” said Lisa Cole, director of programming for k2i academy. “It was an absolute pleasure to join him in the launch of this program and to meet the amazing high school students who came every day to participate, learn and engage with each other in exploration.”
Nine ADSB students took part in the inaugural run of the program, learning about and applying Indigenous knowledge and traditional Indigenous engineering processes to create a project or design solution, which addressed a specific challenge within their communities. Students were also investigating materials through microscope explorations. Workshops were provided by k2i academy mentors in Western engineering design, computational thinking and coding, 3D design and electronics (including breadboards, circuitry and micro: bit).
Two of the nine students attended ADSB’s first regular board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to share their learning and to demonstrate the projects and tools they designed. Students Ella Tulloch-Chiblow and Nicholas Cada were joined, in person, by WC Eaket principal Brian Beauchamp, teacher Bryan Bellefeuille, and virtually by Lisa Cole, Michelle Tsui-Woods and Vanessa Ironside from Lassonde School of Engineering.
Tulloch-Chiblow shared how, using modern-day technology (a 3D printer), she created a prototype of a tool which makes splitting bark from trees (a traditional activity used for making baskets and other items) an easier task. The tool enables the user to cut bark (an age-old practice) to a consistent size, width and depth in an efficient manner.
Cada and a classmate created an online simulator designed to demonstrate tips and techniques for hunting through online game play – another example of a traditional activity being shared and taught using a current-day format.
Throughout the summer program, students were connecting to stories that have been told for thousands of years and learning about how Indigenous knowledge connects to the land, provides perspectives that connect us to the world around us, and creates opportunities for creative problem-solving. One student shared, “I enjoyed the hands-on experience of the program. Usually, we learn how to do things; in this program, we learn by doing things.” At the board meeting, Tulloch-Chiblow echoed a similar thought sharing that she has learned traditional ways through her cultural upbringing and has learned traditional math from standard curriculum practices. Through this program, she learned that these two 'traditions' can be seamlessly merged.
Following the summer program, professor Harris shared, “I was truly impressed with the ideas generated by the W.C. Eaket students and the way that Mr. Bellefeuille was able to connect and engage with students. This was my first experience learning aurally from traditional storytelling, and it gave me a greater appreciation for knowledge that has been passed on through storytelling for thousands of years.”
“Many things excited me about this program and partnership,” Beauchamp says. “I believe that we are not only leveraging Indigenous ways of knowing (an ethical and moral responsibility), but we are also helping students to think about modern engineering challenges through traditional ways.”
Currently, there are 25 students enrolled in the program being run at WC Eaket over the first semester. It has been designed as an accessible credit for all students, providing engaging opportunities and experiences to expose students to university pathways. Through this program, students earn a high school interdisciplinary credit in Indigenous engineering, technology and innovation by design.
Algoma District School Board hopes to continue working with the k2i academy, which is providing additional tools and resources which will allow students at WC Eaket to continue with their hands-on learning.
“k2i academy is committed to supporting the school system in how it delivers STEM education,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering. “We hope to continue working with ADSB to expand this program and similar initiatives to other schools and school boards across Ontario.”
ADSB director of education Lucia Reece shared that this partnership has come at an opportune time as school boards look for ways to ensure that science curriculum and STEM education are meeting the needs of all our students, in particular our Indigenous students.