Outreach goes online

Posted on April 13, 2020

Parents around the world are challenged with finding new ways to keep their children busy while isolated. The faculty’s outreach programs — Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) and Connections — are responding with new, virtual workshops and programs that offer fun ways to engage in STEM activities and feature projects that get students away from screen time.

AAE Delivery Vehicles
Aboriginal Access to Engineering team members deliver supplies in preparation for their video workshops

AAE currently works with Indigenous students and their teachers at Six Nations, Tyendinaga and Akwesasne, as well as with local Indigenous family networks through the Limestone District School Board, providing hands-on outreach to students in all elementary grades. This includes ongoing in-classroom support, as well as teacher training, designed to align with the math and science curriculum.

With schools closed, the team had to find a new way to provide their programming. “The teachers really appreciate how we enrich their lesson plans,” says Melanie Howard, the Director of Aboriginal Access to Engineering. “We want to keep those relationships going. But we also want to keep the activities fun and light during this stressful time for families.”

Howard and her team have created secure, weekly online ‘challenges’ that are embedded within each school’s learning management systems and align with current curriculum. The projects are designed to be low-tech so that students can use materials typically found at home, such as recycled materials. A weekly ‘spin the wheel’ for prizes and an online gallery provides incentives and allows students to see the work of their classmates — bringing them together virtually.

The team is also developing a ‘kit club’ pilot project, which will ship free materials to students so that they can get their family members involved as well. “Parents don’t often get to see what we do in the classroom,” says Howard. “The kit club lets the whole family participate and have fun learning together.”

Lindsay Jones
Connections Outreach Coordinator Lindsay Jones runs a P.A. Day robotics workshop

Connections provides a wide range of outreach programs, both on and off-campus. Along with the ‘Tech and Tinker’ trailer, a mobile engineering classroom that visits local schools, the Connections team runs a number of programs for students of all ages, including STEM workshops and clubs for girls, and a Summer Engineering Academy. They also provide valuable training for teacher candidates in the Faculty of Education.

With campus and schools closed, the team has quickly pivoted to providing online content for teachers, including educational resources and videos. They are also doing online workshops and live-streaming Q&A sessions for teacher candidates.

While the girl’s clubs for high school students can’t get together on campus, they can gather online to pursue their STEM passions. Scott Compeau, the Manager of Connections Engineering Outreach, says that the move to a virtual workshop provides new opportunities for the program. “Our clubs for girls have previously been limited to students who can travel to campus to participate,” he says. “Now, we can offer STEM workshops to any high school girl who wants to learn more about the world of engineering.”

Learn more about Connections online workshops…