CIRA awards $74,255 grant to STEAM Education Centre

January 26, 2021

CIRA awards $74,255 grant to STEAM Education Centre for partnership with Antler River Elementary School to pilot digital literacy program

(St. Thomas, Ontario) STEAM Education Centre in St. Thomas was the recipient of a $74,255 grant from Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA) for the purpose of furthering digital literacy for students in Indigenous and rural communities. For the 2020/21 school year, STEAM Education Centre has utilized this funding towards a partnership with the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation school, Antler River Elementary School, located in Muncey, Ontario. STEAM Education Centre creates materials for bi-weekly sessions emphasizing the role of Indigenous language, culture and stories to inform content and best connect youth to digital literacy skills. Some topics and tools of exploration in this program, now called iSTEAM, have included flight, space, stop motion animation, 3D printing and laser cutting, coding and pixel art.

CIRA provides over $1 Million in funding every year as part of their Community Investment Program granting initiative. In 2020, CIRA funded 20 projects that help improve internet infrastructure,digital literacy and cybersecurity “street smarts” for students and Indigenous, rural and Northern communities.

“CIRA is proud to support innovative digital literacy projects like those being offered by STEAM Education Centre. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students to spend more time on the internet than ever before, so it’s especially important now that we equip youth with the digital skills they need to share, create, and learn online, safely,” said David Fowler, vice president, marketing and communications at CIRA.

For the first term, the grade five and six classes had a chance to discover these tools and now in the new year grades 7 and 8 will join them in the learning process and expand on the knowledge. Co-operative education students from two local high schools (Parkside Collegiate Institute and St Joseph’s Catholic High School) have also been a part of the digital literacy learning collaboration as part of the STEAM Leaders program. Due to more virtual learning requirements, caused by the pandemic, all materials created must be made at the Centre and then delivered to the school thus providing these student leaders with an opportunity to learn and use STEAM technologies and work with staff to craft session materials. They have engaged in building graphic designed student packages, learned 3D printing skills as well as used the laser cutter to prototype project models that the Antler River elementary students use in class.

The projects themselves are ”bringing families together. Empowering students and engaging adults” says Antler River teacher Jeff Clarke. This was seen with a flying bird model they needed to construct and design with many completing the project at home.

“​It feels good to be able to share what knowledge I have as an Indigenous person while using STEAM elements. I believe that science, technology, engineering, art, and math all weave well within Indigenous cultural aspects. We are doing our best to intertwine both worldviews without taking away from either one,” said Dakota Ireland, iSTEAM Educator at the STEAM Education Centre.

The school has seen great feedback on the pilot project with students engaged in creating the session packages. Some students have also decided to create a video news report on the project and their videos will soon be revealed on the website.

“iSTEAM has been so giving and fun to work with this year. iSTEAM has adapted very well to the pandemic time and is still providing us amazing projects. It’s amazing seeing how happy and proud the kids are once they finish their projects. Miigwech (thank you) from all of us at Antler River Elementary school!” said Ashley Riley, Arts Coordinator at Antler River Elementary school.

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