Wolastoq Education Initiative: combining science with Indigenous knowledge
Located on the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, the Wolastoq Education Initiative (WEI) is a First Nations run not-for-profit organization, delivering programming in STEM and Indigenous culture. As a tight-knit community, the Tobique First Nation has strongly supported WEI’s outreach work, which has impacted virtually every child on the reserve since the organization’s launch in 2015.
WEI gives Tobique youth an experience that was once limited to urban centers in the province, such as Moncton or Saint John, but they remain steadfast in their commitment to preserving the language and culture of the Maliseet People. This includes 3D printing workshops, where middle school students create projects using Maliseet language, and community science nights, where participants learn the intricacies of Cricut software and vinyl to make t-shirts and signage that promote Maliseet language.
The work of the Wolastoq Education Initiative has proven what Indigenous communities have known all along: the power of access and opportunity. WEI’s most recent achievement is the creation of a MakerSpace outfitted with a 3D printer, laser engraving cabinet, and Cricut vinyl cutter. The space has allowed young entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand their creative skill sets while bringing their imagination to life. Funds provided by NSERC’s PromoScience award are helping WEI enhance their MakerSpace equipment, offer more initiatives and programming to their community, and help their talented staff expand the program into other Maliseet communities.
Christian Perley Jr. is a participant who discovered the program while looking for a math tutor. “I never had a dull moment whenever I spent time with the creative minds at WEI, and I hope that the youth to come will also experience the wonders and opportunities this initiative has blessed me with over the years,” he said. “WEI is more than just another education center [...] It is a place that can lead to friendships and opportunities that open many doors for youth to grow into bright minded individuals.”
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