Land-based Learning Program for Indigenous Youth in Nova Scotia Established by SuperNOVA at Dalhousie University and the Ulnooweg Education Centre

June 15, 2022 – Halifax, NS – This August, 20 high school youth from Acadia First Nation will have the opportunity to attend Melkiknuawti, a Land-based Education Program that aligns STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) concepts with local Indigenous Knowledge. Melkiknuawti (mel-gig-new-oh-di), (that which gives you strength), describes the Mi’kmaw idea of “nature” as a path of strength. The program is developed and delivered by SuperNOVA at Dalhousie University and the Ulnooweg Education Centre.

The program is free of charge and will provide youth with unique hands-on experiences. From learning about fish life cycles at Wentzell’s Lake, to engaging with engineering concepts by constructing a sweat lodge, educational activities will use Windhorse as the classroom, recognizing the inherent connection that Indigenous peoples have always had with the land.

Since learning of Windhorse, Ulnooweg envisioned young Indigenous children learning from the land under the same hemlocks their ancestors did long ago. Communities across Canada have been working diligently in bringing youth back to the land. Over the last several years, Actua, the national organization of which SuperNOVA is a network member, has been working with other Indigenous communities in land-based learning programs across Canada.

Executive Director of SuperNOVA Alexandra Fenton says, “It has been a long-standing goal of SuperNOVA to establish STEM-focused land-based learning opportunities in Atlantic Canada.” The program planning, led by SuperNOVA’s Assistant Director Maya Potter, was solidified through the partnership with Ulnooweg Education Centre. She says that “the partnership with Ulnooweg is a critical part of establishing this program for the long term. We are honoured and grateful to be able to run Melkiknuawti at Windhorse with Ulnooweg Education Centre.”

This summer program will be the first youth educational programming taking place at Windhorse since it was transferred to Ulnooweg, and it is just one of the ways in which Ulnooweg hopes to realize the land’s future.Ulnooweg’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Googoo, is looking forward to bringing these visions to reality and states that “Through reconnecting with the land, learning becomes a way of being, rather than just a way of knowing. Land-based learning programs allow all ages to experience their childhood innocence and wonder of the possible. We are honoured to provide this space to Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers for the sharing of our ways of knowing to Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth for future generations to come.”

The program’s curriculum was developed in collaboration with Acadia First Nation youth and representatives, and is directly informed by the community’s educational and cultural priorities. Participants will have opportunities to take part in traditional practices and ceremonies, be engaged in land-based learning activities, develop general skills ranging from survival to digital literacy, and take time for meaningful reflection. Participants will also receive mentorship from local Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

“This program will allow youth to build and strengthen connections to their culture and language while learning from the land, mentors, and their peers,” explains SuperNOVA Partnership and Development Coordinator Caitlin MacPhail.

The centrepiece of SuperNOVA’s Indigenous outreach programming, the Melkiknuawti program is not a stand-alone project. Future plans include expanding the number of communities that the program reaches annually, as well as working to accredit the program in regional high schools. Looking forward, the Melkiknuawti program is not only the beginning of a new partnership, but part of creating critical educational opportunities that centre Indigenous communities.

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More information, visit Ulnooweg Education Land-Based Learning.