Award-winning PotashCorp Kamskénow program helps get kids excited about science

Students enrolled in the PotashCorp Kamskénow program learn science hands-on

Students enrolled in the PotashCorp Kamskénow program learn science hands-on

The PotashCorp Kamskénow program, run out of the College of Arts and Science, has been selected for two 2014 Global Best Awards from the International Business Education Partnership Network. The local science education program has been recognized internationally for its work in getting Aboriginal students in Saskatoon excited about math and science.

The Global Best Awards—affiliated with the Conference Board of Canada—celebrate partnerships between educational institutions, private businesses and other stakeholders. As an innovative collaboration between the U of S, Saskatoon school divisions and partners, the PotashCorp Kamskénow program was chosen this spring as joint winner of the 2014 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Award for the North America region.

“We are thrilled with this recognition and validation,” said Lana Elias, director of science outreach programs for the U of S Division of Science. “It’s an honour to share our enthusiasm for learning and to empower Aboriginal students to succeed in the fields of science and mathematics.”

Program partners and participants celebrated their achievements at a recognition event at the U of S on October 3, including PotashCorp, NSERC, the Community Initiatives Fund, the College of Arts & Science, U of S Community Engagement and Outreach, Saskatoon Public Schools and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

Title sponsor, PotashCorp has been supporting the program since its inception in 2009. The science-outreach program aims to increase science literacy in both classroom teachers and their students, while encouraging Aboriginal students to consider a career in the sciences.  The program provides hands-on learning in Saskatoon classrooms based on each of the Division of Science disciplines at the U of S: biology, chemistry, computer science, geological sciences, mathematics and physics.

With the support of its partners and sponsors, the program has grown from one pilot classroom in 2009 to 43 classrooms and 861 students in 2013, fostering children’s enthusiasm for science and learning. Rather than a one-time school visit, the program offers students 12 weeks of classroom activities culminating in a trip to on-campus labs in week 13. All sessions are led by U of S graduate and undergraduate students.

Recognizing that Aboriginal peoples’ participation in the sciences is disproportionately low, PotashCorp Kamskénow’s organizers aim to pique students’ interest in these subjects early in their lives. The program is offered to Grade 4-12 classes in Saskatoon schools with a high proportion of Aboriginal students.

“PotashCorp is proud to partner with the U of S on the Kamskénow program,” said Lee Knafelc, vice-president, human resources and administration at PotashCorp. “With the program’s goal to excite youth about science, we are hopeful these Aboriginal students will pursue science careers. PotashCorp thanks the dedicated student educators for making the Kamskénow program so engaging, and we are thrilled that the program is being recognized for its positive impact on our community.”

Shelly Lord, principal of St. Michael Community School, participated in some of the recent sessions of PotashCorp Kamskénow held at her school.

“I know the students got more excited about science—it opened up a new world for them,” Lord said. “What I loved about it was that it was hands-on. The kids were engaged and part of the learning instead of being talked at.”

For more information about the program visit artsandscience.usask.ca/scienceoutreach/kamskenow or call Lana Elias, Director of Science Outreach at the U of S at 306-966-5776.