A leader in educational outreach, Actua has a twenty-year track record of providing hands-on, confidence-building programming in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to ALL youth, regardless of their location, socio-economic situation, gender or ability. We are committed to engaging young Canadians (ages six to sixteen) who are typically underrepresented and underserved in STEM, and we have invested heavily in the development and delivery of customized programming for specific youth audiences that virtually no other organization reaches.
To this end, Actua introduces Aboriginal youth to life-changing STEM experiences, and over the years, we, along with our member organizations located at Canadian colleges and universities, have engaged tens of thousands of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples through our programming. Twelve years ago, as a way to engage isolated communities located beyond the geographical reach of our network, we developed Actua in the North, a customized outreach program for Aboriginal youth living north of 60°.
At the time, our northern member, located in Nunavut, lacked the staff and resource capacity to deliver our programming to its local communities. We, in turn, sent a team of instructors to provide assistance, and in 2000, Actua’s first northern camp took place in Iqaluit. The success of our project spread quickly through word-of-mouth to other northern communities, highlighting the need for an outreach model in Canada’s North. Since then, Actua has developed its own highly-trained Outreach Team, which now delivers dynamic locally and culturally relevant programming to 30-40 northern communities annually.
Actua’s northern programming sparks a curiosity for science that extends beyond the classroom. Through school workshops and one-week camps, youth not only discover but experience various careers through fun hands-on activities that emulate what it is like to solve real-life challenges. We work with community partners to showcase local and emerging career opportunities and engage local STEM professionals as mentors whenever possible. We also engage local Elders as well as other Aboriginal role models who impart traditional knowledge and help youth make their own cultural connections to the study of science.
Skills in STEM are critical to helping underrepresented groups realize their potential. They help build the confidence needed to seek educational opportunities, establish economic independence, and find a voice in society. By extending our programming, Actua fulfilled a growing need to provide Northern youth the chance to discover new skills and interests. In this way, we are helping form a first-generation of post-secondary students and contributing to the development of a much-needed diverse perspective to Canada’s economy.
Evaluations of Actua’s Northern programming consistently demonstrate that we are increasing awareness of, and interest in, science. A recent evaluation of our health science camps indicated that 87 percent of participants strongly agreed with the statement “I am excited about the career opportunities I learned about,” while 70 percent indicated they now want to study health sciences at college or university. These results are reinforced by the ever-increasing demand for our programming and through the excellent feedback we receive from community contacts, parents, Elders, and volunteers.