Aki Kikinomakaywin Program Offers Hands-on STEAM Learning Opportunities for Indigenous Youth in Northern Ontario

NORDIK Institute is launching its new Aki Kikinomakaywin (Learning on the land) program, which offers hands-on, Indigenous science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) training for Indigenous youth.


The program will run for one 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 Northern Ontario First Nation communities Indigenous ways of knowing and being through learning on the land through the use of western science techniques.


Aki Kikinomakaywin will be running a week-long camp in Thunder Bay at Lakehead University and Confederation College this summer 2022. The program is free to youth ages 12-14 and covers all costs for accommodation, transportation, and food. In future years, programs will be run in both 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 Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Youth will learn how to code sensors to collect environmental data and learn how western science techniques can be used to support Indigenous science, while also becoming more confident in university and college settings.


“The Elders have said that we need to teach our young on the land. Mother Earth is our education system, she is our pharmacy, our kitchen, our everything. By learning on the land, our young will come to understand she is our everything” said Dr. Susan Bell-Chiblow, Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph, NORDIK Research Associate and, and Anishinaabekwe from Garden River First Nation, who is a Co-Lead to the program.


“The youth will learn that we all come from water and need to protect the waters. They will gain the understanding that water is life, is alive with spirit, and is medicine. They will understand that as Anishinaabek, we always did science. This will provide confidence in who they are and potentially assist them in career decisions,” Dr. Chiblow said.


Aki Kikinomakaywin is led by an Advisory Group that is comprised of Indigenous women who are all leaders in the education field and their communities.


This Advisory Group is led by Marnie Yourchuk the 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 the Coordinator of the Niijii Indigenous Mentorship program at Lakehead University; Mary Wabano-McKay is the 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 lastly Jasmine Baxter is an Environmental Technician with Matawa and Four Rivers who is also completing her Honours B.Sc. in Environmental Science at Lakehead University.


Dr. Gayle Broad, Professor Emerita at Algoma University and Research Associate at NORDIK Institute, has also played an integral role in developing the program.


Aki Kikinomakaywin is also fortunate to be partnering with Water First and Let’s Talk Science to provide engaging water-focused and coding hands-on western science activities.


“Aki Kikinomakaywin is an important program aiming to support Ontario’s northern First Nation youth in learning about careers in STEAM,” said Haley MacLeod, a Ph.D. Candidate at Lakehead University and a Co-Lead on the program.


“Allowing youth to learn from local Elders and Knowledge Holders will provide a unique opportunity to get youth excited about their own knowledge systems and future career opportunities. I am excited to help get youth on to the land and in the lab and to provide more education opportunities in the North,” MacLeod said.


Applications and additional information are available on the program’s website at akikikinomakaywin.com.


NORDIK Institute is excited to aid in this program. This program will benefit Indigenous youth in Northern Ontario through providing them with unique learning opportunities and provide a model for future land-based learning opportunities in the region.

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