The Trent Aboriginal and Cultural Knowledge and Science (TRACKS) Program, a youth program run through the Indigenous Environmental Studies/Science (IESS) program at Trent University, which combines both Indigenous knowledge and scientific principles, has received a boost of support for their innovative programming thanks to a $90,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
The funding from NSERC’s PromoScience program, a program which offers support for organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering, was part of a larger announcement made today at the Canadian Association of Science Centre’s (CASC) Annual Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Having NSERC recognize TRACKS' award-winning approach to learning is indeed heartening and inspiring,” said Professor Dan Longboat, director of the IESS program at Trent University. “TRACKS' approach has already shown the benefits of engaging youth. By deepening their connection and responsibility to the world around them, youth are inspired to create a better world for their children's children. NSERC should be applauded for their visionary insight.”
Over the past five years, the TRACKS Youth Program has grown from an idea to a well-established youth initiative within the University, in Peterborough, and throughout surrounding Indigenous communities. Initially conceived by faculty members, staff and students in the IESS program and members of local First Nations communities, TRACKS operates in partnership with IESS and the Kawartha World Issues Centre as a distinct program guided and led by Indigenous community partners and University representatives.
This renewal and enhanced funding awarded to TRACKS by NSERC will help support program and capacity enhancements over the next three years. In August 2015, TRACKS was also awarded $25,000 as the only Canadian winner among five other North American programs in the inaugural UL Innovation in Education Award, administered by the North American Association of Environmental Educators.
"It is very encouraging that NSERC is supportive of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students' learning and exploration using Indigenous and environmental science perspectives,” said Dr. Chris Furgal, a faculty member in the IESS program. “Trent and the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences Program is very proud of the way that TRACKS has embodied and put into practice the IESS philosophy. Through its work with youth in the region, the program introduces and engages hundreds of students each year to this innovative and exciting approach to learning about the world around us. The support and recognition from NSERC is the latest in a series of well-deserved awards highlighting this great initiative."
Having secured three-year funding from NSERC, TRACKS will continue to foster science skills in Indigenous youth by promoting Indigenous knowledge systems as an important element of scientific research and innovation. The grant will also allow them to pilot a leadership program for older youth ages 13-18. Youth will build skills as they connect with participants from other communities on overnight retreats and complete a certificate program based on volunteering and mentorship.
Started in 2010, TRACKS works closely with four First Nations community partners as well as within the Trent and Peterborough area communities to engage with more than 7,000 youth annually by providing skills, knowledge, and activities about environmental science from multiple perspectives, namely Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. Sensitive to the need to foster cultural pride among Indigenous youth while engaging them in E-STEM and helping them to recognize themselves as scientists in both Western and traditional settings, TRACKS embodies IESS principles in an Indigenous and environmental approach to science education which engage multiple knowledge systems, crossing disciplines and cultures to broaden and deepen our connection to the environment while creating innovative thinkers to help resolve environmental problems across the country and around the planet.
About Trent University
One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.
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