Elephant Thoughts First Nations and Inuit Education

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Elephant Thoughts First Nations and Inuit Education

$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Since our inception, Elephant Thoughts has serviced nearly one quarter of First Nations and Inuit schools across Canada. Our strength in Canada’s most remote schools is in providing tools that allow for the academic success of aboriginal students. We believe all students deserve a chance at an excellent education that provides the necessary foundation for post-secondary learning and career success. There are many challenges to providing consistently high standards of education in remote communities. We work with schools and communities to help overcome those obstacles.

Our programs help schools, teachers, and students excel. They address issues such as; shortages of qualified teachers, lack of availability of specialized resources, student apathy and low attendance, lack of community and parent connection to the schools.

All of our programs excite students to learn while building on the strengths of aboriginal students. Our interactive programs are all created by teams of professional educators from special needs educators, to specialist teachers, to First Nations teachers, to teachers with years of experience working in the north. This collaboration of ideas combines to create the most exciting and effective programs imaginable. These interactive programs combine academics, culture, and exploration. They encourage and build the students’ confidence as they engage both students and communities alike. Elephant Thoughts cultivates a love for learning and helps students build the self-esteem necessary to chase their dreams.

Consistent programming from Elephant Thoughts results in students displaying higher levels of motivation, they become more eager to achieve more and go farther in school. Teachers are armed with more great ideas and resources. Elephant Thoughts helps school boards, students, and the communities achieve a higher standard of education year after year.

Our education program synopsis includes in-school programs, community workshops, intensive tutoring programs (to enable graduates), mentorship and student leadership programs and summer camps. Our greatest success has been in enabling graduates through one-on-one and classroom tutoring in science, math, english and history. This is a program that was started three years ago at the request of a principal in the Cree School board in Quebec. When he contacted us he was desperate as his school had lost their science teacher at the beginning of the year and there was little hope that his students would be able to pass their end of year science exam meaning graduation would be impossible. Elephant Thoughts Executive Director Jeremy Rhodes drove to the community for a 6 week intensive tutoring program of which the students were more than thrilled to participate in. Out of 9 students all of them passed their science exams giving each of them renewed hope and self-confidence to continue their studies.

We have since been delivering tutoring programs throughout the year in the 9 schools that comprise the Cree School Board in Quebec with great success. We have enabled graduates in schools that have not seen one child graduate from high school in over 9 years. What started out as a group of 9 last year grew to around 100. We can safely say that every student who joins our program and stays with it will pass their exams. We put the students through rigorous testing before they write giving them the confidence to pass. There is no question that education is the key to new beginnings for these students. At Elephant Thoughts we have agreed for years that our greatest measure of success will be when the communities are filled with a majority of native teachers. That is when we will know we have really done our jobs.

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Inspired Education Everywhere

About You, Your Group, or Your Organization

Elephant Thoughts Global Development Initiatives

Please confirm that this project could benefit First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples


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What categories best describe who your group or organization serves (check all that apply)

First Nations people, Inuit people.

What best describes your group or organization

Non-profit organization.

How long have you, your group, or your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Define your idea / project in 1-2 short sentences

To enable First Nation and Inuit students equal opportunities to a quality education and also to become contributing members of their communities.

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Expanding (it has been running for a while, has grown, you know it is making a difference and now you want to expand)

Social Impact
Please tell us about the social impact of your idea or proect

Quality education starts with exciting students about the learning process. Our hands on and interactive programming entices students to come to school and stay in school. So often in communities like Attawapiskat and Kashechewan our feedback is the kids cannot wait until our return. Imagine a program that allows kids to crawl inside five giant, inflated endangered Canadian animals that they have to replace all the working guts for. This is an brand new installation we call Zoo Guts and it is a biology lesson and a lesson in species reecovery and habitat loss that kids in the north will never have seen before. This is the kind of programming that stimulates, motivates and supports the learning success of students everywhere giving them needed confidence to achieve success in their lives.

Your Future Goal(s): Tell us what you hope to achieve with your idea or project in the next year

Our goals are always to be able to access that many more at risk students in more remote communities enabling graduates.

In 5 years, what will be different as a result of your idea/project?

In five years we hope to have accessed every First Nation and Inuit community in Canada. We sincerely believe that one of the main solutions to the First Nation 'crises' in Canada is education. The greatest impact for long term success of that education will be if it is managed one student at a time. Elephant Thoughts is both capable and prepared to access each and every aboriginal student to provide them with equal opportunities to succeed. We also hope to incorporate more programs that directly cultivate First Nations educators. Through our mentorship programs we have been able to offer jobs in education to students that they would rarely have access to. This invigorates a long term desire to give back to their own communities in the field of education. www.elephantthoughts.com for info

Tell us about the people/ partnerships that are already involved and why they are important to your idea or project.

In all of the communities that we work in our main partners are the bands themselves. We are in a unique position that after 10 years of delivering programs in communities across Canada we have established trust and working relationships such that we are welcomed back in every community we work in. Our main limitation is our capacity to deliver the demand that we have for programs. Our institutional partners include the Niskamoon Corporation and the Cree School Board in Quebec as well as CHRD (Cree Human Resources Development). In Nunavet we are directly supported by the Kakivak Asociation. Across Canada through the bands we are funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Our FN programs are also funded by NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada).

If there are other people/partners that you will reach out to tell us who they are and why they will be important to your idea or project.

Other partners we have reached out to are Canada World Youth through a Trillium Foundation grant that focuses specifically on youth engagement and youth leadership. We are also working with Five Nations Energy on a program which teaches students in northern Ontario through hands-on workshops about energy conservation and alternative forms of energy. As previously mentioned part of our long term goals are to enable the foundation for more First Nation and Inuit educators. We do this by cultivating a love for education at an early age getting students "hooked" on the learning process such that they want to become future educators. In high school our mentoring programs give students "real life" teaching skills as they work for Elephant Thoughts in their own classrooms. For most this will be their first job. They are trained by Elephant Thoughts staff and are expected to teach, guide and instruct younger students. This program is especially valuable for students needing specific experience. Younger children benefit as they watch their older school mates take on leadership positions. It unifies communities as they watch their youth develop life long skills.

One more aspect of the organization that has not been highlighted with respect to how we are supported financially is that fact that at heart we are social entrepreneurs and have been from the inception of ET. Our sustainable plan is to be able to support ourselves through income generating activities like an educational store at our head offices, a science equipment supply catalogue for northern teachers as well as an on-line catalogue, a thriving special events business and other similar ventures. The only difference between us and other entrepreneurs is that all of our profit goes back into our charitable practices. Of course we always require additional support as we are continually creating new and innovative ways to educate children, but our initial and continued plan is for the majority of the charity to be self-supporting. Please refer to www.elephantthoughts.com for more information and links to videos on our programs and practices.

Describe the kinds of support you receive (other than money) or will need to support your idea or project (e.g.: donated, space, equipment and volunteers)

We do not require much in the way of direct support to deliver our programs. We arrive with all of our own equipment and large installations and arrange for paid accomodation for our staff and teachers ahead of time. Having said this the work that we do in the north would not be possible without the trust and support of the communities that we work in. The success of the education of students requires the input of the students and their families, teachers, band members and leaders and community members. The education of native children requires much more than just amazing programming. It requires the support of families to ensure the greatest success. This is why we place such an emphasis on community engagement and mentoring programs.

Do you currently have funding for your idea or project?

Yes (answer the next two questions)