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Prairie Pupils Young and Old Discover ‘A Family Can Learn Together’

In Saskatchewan, intergenerational STEM program introduces Cowessess First Nation learners young and old to robotics, coding

Prairie Pupils Young and Old Discover ‘A Family Can Learn Together’

In Saskatchewan, intergenerational STEM program introduces Cowessess First Nation learners young and old to robotics, coding

Published 07-09-24

Submitted by Enbridge Inc.

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A student from Cowessess First Nation explains the logic behind the game she created.

After months of effort, a middle-school student pressed “print” on the 3D model she had designed from scratch. In a matter of hours, she would proudly hold the creation she had dreamed up—a powwow dancer—in her small hands.

At a nearby computer, a grandmother was putting the final touches on a video game she had invented. The kokhom (Cree for “grandma”) was combing through the code one more time, nearly ready to share the game with classmates.

The technology skills of both pupils have come a long way in the past 18 months.

The two are part of an intergenerational STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program offered by Nanan STEM Academy through the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina.

Ten students from Cowessess First Nation were invited to participate every Saturday over the span of a year-and-a-half.

The caveat was intriguing—each of the student participants had to be accompanied by an adult caregiver who would learn alongside them.

“The concept of lifelong learning shows the children their learning is supported in the family,” explains Sandy Pinay-Schindler, director of education at Cowessess First Nation, located about a two-hour drive east of the provincial capital.

“It shows them a family can learn together.”

Participants were selected from students in Grades 4 through 8 who live on and off reserve in Cowessess and Regina. Cowessess First Nation has about 3,200 members, 1,000 of who live on the reserve.

“We know what residential schools were like, where students were separated from their families,” remarks Pinay-Schindler. “To have the opportunity for kids and caregivers to learn together, right alongside each other in a positive way, is really powerful.”

As Canada celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, Enbridge remains committed year-round to strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities across North America, and advancing reconciliation, through engagement, economic inclusion, and partnerships based on mutual trust and respect.

In 2023, we invested more than $2.6 million across Canada in 263 separate community initiatives operated by our Indigenous partners.

That included a $10,000 Fueling Futures grant to Cowessess First Nation, and the donation of 10 laptop computers, in support of this intergenerational STEM program. Not only do children and families develop skills in coding and robotics, they build confidence in who they are and what they think—and they’re building their potential for the future.

Feedback from the Cowessess program had been so positive, Enbridge contributed a second $10,000 Fueling Futures grant for the same program in 2024, this time in support of Piapot First Nation, located 40 minutes north of Regina.

In light of the STEM program’s success, Cowessess is contemplating what comes next—how can robotics and coding programs be integrated into the community to benefit more people?

“Our end goal is to build capacity at our own school, which is kindergarten to Grade 12,” Pinay-Schindler explains.

The nation is also developing a STEM program to be offered this summer at Cowessess.

“We could set up a STEM booth during the powwow,” Pinay-Schindler observes. “We would have the community there, the Elders there.

“Having that learning opportunity right there within our community would make it a much richer experience for everybody.”

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