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Summer science camp engages youth in fun-learning

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By Susan Solway Sweetgrass Writer FORT MacKAY







Shell Canada partnered with the national charitable organization Actua to host a science, technology, engineering and mathematics camp in Fort MacKay in August.

The science camp focused on the importance and recognition of science, engineering and technology among the youth population by engaging them in hands on experiences, both exciting and dynamic while, at the same time, teaching how these topics relate to the world around them, explains Actua CEO Jennifer Flanagan.

Actua has, within this year alone, reached 500 communities across the country, engaging over 230,000 Grades 1-9 youth.
Since 2005 ACTUA has been delivering its Aboriginal Outreach Program to the community of Fort MacKay, says Flanagan. With the help of consistent funding partners like Shell, Actua is able to expose Aboriginal youth to activities that empower and build confidence, instilling the possibility of future career opportunities within the fields of science, engineering and technology.

“In Fort MacKay we learned about various topics in civil and mechanical engineering and the kids actually designed and built their own playground. They are learning simple machines, building materials, and the kinds of planning that you have to go through to develop this kind of recreational activity,” said Flanagan.

She stresses that Actua pushes the implementation of teamwork, creativity, problem solving and critical analysis that is needed to achieve the end product of each activity. The young group in Fort MacKay also learned about the chemical properties of hydro gels, the same hydro gels that make up a baby’s diaper, and in turn applied the same method to designing an ultra water absorbent flowerpot. According to Flanagan, Actua makes it essential that the programming touches on what is familiar to the youth so that they have a greater interest in the science activity at hand.

Flanagan relays that the importance of the science camp is to build general literacy, enjoyment and confidence in youth in an effort to curb future behaviour that may result in school drop-outs. The camp is used to promote staying in school, pursuing post-secondary education and keeping the doors open to science and math.

Both the universities of Calgary and Alberta (in Edmonton) are among the 33 members across the country which have assisted Axtua in developing programming for the under-represented and rural communities with the hopes of engaging those youth who have limited educational opportunities or face socially economic challenges, explains Flanagan.

“We want to get them early and show them that there is a place for them in science and technology, that their perspectives are important and valued and that they can do it. That they have a successful experience where they are actually doing and being like little scientists and engineers,” she said.

Throughout the school year Fort MacKay has welcomed Actua into the classrooms to lead science, engineering and technology workshops.

Along with community partnerships, Actua relies heavily on its partnerships with national supporters like GE Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, The Canadian Institute of Health Research, RBC Foundation and Imperial Oil Foundation.