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Actua: Making a difference in a STEM world

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When an organization has been making a big difference for over two decades in the STEM education and experience of Canadian youth, they should be recognized.

Actua has a strong voice that isn’t hesitant to speak out about the importance of digital literacy – nor are they lagging behind in the programs and opportunities to reach out and connect with youth not just in cities but throughout the country. This includes Indigenous communities in the remote regions of Canada such as Labrador, Northern Quebec, Yukon Territory, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories. Both Actua’s Network Members and Outreach Teams work with over 200 Indigenous communities to reach over 30,000 Indigenous youth.

Here’s why Actua is making such a big impact on STEM in Canada – and why you need to know who they are and what they do.

 

Why Digital Literacy Matters

One of the biggest tools we can provide not only youth, but people of all ages, is digital literacy. Why? Because technology is becoming more important and without digital literacy it’s far too easy to be left behind. Kids today need to know not only how to use this ever advancing technology, they also need to understand how it works.

The Government of Canada notes:

Although students in the past have focused on developing literacy skills such as reading, writing, and numeracy, 21st century students must develop multiple literacies that will allow them to respond to changing ideas, attitudes, and technologies as their communities and their world evolve.1

Actua believes that the place for kids to start developing digital skills begins with understanding that technology is the force behind so much of our daily lives – they focus on teaching kids digital skills and coding, so they’re exposed to how technology works and can use this information in other areas of their lives. Having knowledge of coding also helps build skills for problem solving that can then be applied to all STEM subjects.2

 

Network Members

Joining Actua in their efforts to help youth pursue education and careers in STEM fields are 35 Canadian universities and colleges. These Network Members offer a wide variety of programs and events within their local communities to raise the awareness and participation of students from K to 12 in activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Who are these Network Members? Mentors working in STEM related fields donate their time and enthusiasm to working with youth. This is the ideal way to build excitement – mentors sharing stories about their own journeys and the difficulties they encountered and overcame in education as well as getting into a STEM career.

 

Actua’s Outreach Team

Many of Canada’s youth live in communities where there is no access to the programs offered by Network Members. Actua makes sure these kids aren’t left out – their Outreach Team heads out to these rural communities, bringing the STEM experience with them through workshops, camps, and science events. Another benefit for youth is that the team works closely with local Indigenous groups and Elders to incorporate cultural knowledge into STEM programs and activities. This keeps the Indigenous customs alive in the community and meaningful to Indigenous youth.

 

Reaching Canada’s Underrepresented

Even with their Network Members and Outreach Teams, Actua understands that there are some kids that are underrepresented. Unique programs target these youth, giving them the same opportunities that other kids throughout the country have access to. The goal is to build confidence in all youth, no matter their gender or background, and encourage and inspire them to acknowledge their full potential. Actua defines this as a “focus on breaking barriers to STEM” with these three programs:

  1. National Girls Program
    Not only do Network Members reach out to all Canadian youth, they’re committed to working with girls and young women to encourage their interest in STEM subjects such as engineering and technology. Using women mentors, Actua offers a variety of programs for girls where they can participate in activities and even the playing field in STEM careers not only in Canada but around the world.
  2.  

  3. National Indigenous Youth in STEM (InSTEM)
    InSTEM has been created so First Nations, Inuit, and Metis youth can participate in STEM programs as they work closely with both Indigenous role models and other Outreach Team members. Role models lead the way in showing youth how their traditional knowledge fits in with the study of STEM subjects.
  4.  

  5. Go Where Kids Are
    Even when STEM programs are offered without cost, Actua understands that not all kids have the opportunity to attend these programs. Youth who are at-risk or who face economic and social challenges often get left out of the education equation altogether, leaving them with little more than the basics. The Go Where Kids Are program endeavors to reach these kids and expose them to STEM activities and topics with the goal of showing them that anything is possible when it comes to education.

 

The Future Of Actua

With the support of partners and funders in the private sectors, as well as funding from foundations, Actua will continue to empower and guide Canadian youth around the country no matter where they live. Government funding also plays a big role in the success of Actua and its goals.

Just announced on April 2nd, 2019, the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre is applying $2.3 million towards Actua’s InSTEM program for Indigenous youth. This is a huge stride toward further recognition of how critical STEM is for all kids in Canada:

Ensuring youth have the skills they need to grow into the jobs of tomorrow is critical to Canada’s long-term prosperity. This investment in Actua’s InSTEM Program will help Indigenous and Northern youth gain valuable experiential learning opportunities. – Mona Fortier, Member of Parliament for Ottawa

With the efforts of organizations such as Actua, Canadians are changing the future for our youth, pushing them forward in STEM education and careers so they can compete in a global market – and empowering them to shatter the ceiling on their way to achieving their dreams.


Sources
1Digital Canada 150. (2014, April 04). Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation. Government of Canada. Retrieved on April 21, 2019 from https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/028.nsf/eng/00535.html#reference4
2Floyd, S. (n.d.). Problem Solving & Coding. Research Ideas. Retrieved on April 21, 2019 from http://researchideas.ca/mc/problem-solving-coding/

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Monica Mccutchen

Monica lives in the lovely coastal city of Vancouver and is a writer by day and coffee, pastry and yoga enthusiast by night. Having completed a degree in technical writing, her writing passions include education, technology, natural health and mindfulness.