Trent University recently hosted a groundbreaking STEM mentoring workshop aimed at inspiring and empowering Indigenous girls in high school to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) International Mentoring Workshop, titled Gikendaaso Oshki Kwewag - The Young Women Carry Knowledge, brought together accomplished female mentors from Canada and around the world, combining Indigenous and western ways of knowing to provide the participating students with a transformative and hands-on learning experience.
Hosted in Canada for the first time, the four-day workshop offered a range of activities and sessions that provided a comprehensive view of STEM fields, including on-the-land learning sessions, lab work, and visits to science facilities. Through these activities, the participants were able to explore and experience various aspects of science and technology and understand the potential they each hold. The workshop also included talks by accomplished female scientists and engineers, who shared their experiences and insights to motivate students to pursue careers in STEM.
"This is a powerful opportunity to create lasting connections between Indigenous girls and successful female STEM professionals from across the world,” said Emily Whetung ‘03 (Champlain College), co-chair of the workshop, former chief of Curve Lake First Nation, and a Trent University alum. “These connections can inspire, motivate and provide an important sense of belonging that can be a real game-changer in these young women's lives."
The workshop represented a collaborative effort between the NEA and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to offer Indigenous girls from the opportunity to explore what a future in STEM could hold. These mentors are accomplished scientists and engineers, including four international mentors from Korea, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and France.
Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Trent's director of the First Peoples House of Learning (FPHL), highlighted the significance of this event in the context of Trent's leadership in Indigenous education.
"This partnership and workshop are a testament to Trent's continued commitment to creating opportunities for Indigenous girls to pursue and excel in STEM fields. As leaders in Indigenous education, we understand the importance of providing culturally responsive and relevant learning opportunities that integrate Indigenous ways of knowing.
"The passion and drive demonstrated by the young women during the workshop sessions was truly inspiring. I have no doubt that the positive impact of this event will extend far beyond just those who attended, as these talented and motivated individuals will become future leaders in STEM fields, paving the way for others in their communities and shattering barriers along the way.”
Chloe Malcolm, a grade nine student and workshop participant, enthusiastically expressed her interest in pursuing a career in STEM after experiencing the event's unique approach that proved to be a powerful tool for inspiring her future studies.
“The hands-on activities in the nursing lab and forensic lab activities were really fun and impactful. The workshop was meaningful and has given me direction and ideas for school and my career.”
Through sustained partnerships with Indigenous communities and organizations, Trent is actively working towards eliminating the systemic barriers that have historically excluded Indigenous peoples from participating in STEM fields. The University recognizes the vital role that Indigenous knowledge and perspectives play in advancing scientific research and is committed to promoting cross-cultural learning and collaboration in STEM education.