STEM program prepares youth (and teachers) for today’s digital realities

By Jon Tewksbury Posted: February 11, 2019 3:15 p.m.

The BBC micro:bit has become a popular learning tool for U of R EYES educators. The kits teach children about coding and digital literacy.
The BBC micro:bit has become a popular learning tool for U of R EYES educators. The kits teach children about coding and digital literacy. Photo: External Relations

The University of Regina EYES program (Educating Youth in Engineering and Science) had a record-setting 2018 and is on track to be even more successful this year. As part of the U of R’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, EYES is a not-for-profit organization that provides Saskatchewan youth with the opportunity to experience science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in a fun, hands-on way. 

“The program takes a new approach to experiential learning,” said Megan Moore, EYES coordinator, University of Lethbridge Biology and Psychology grad, and current U of R Education student. “Through science and technology, we are educating the youth of our province in a memorable and impactful way.” 

A member of a national STEM-based youth charity, Actua, EYES offers youth workshops and summer camps at various locations throughout the province, focusing on science experiments and hands-on activities in a creative and open environment. The third largest STEM program of its kind in Canada (behind only the University of Ottawa and McMaster University), EYES is designed for Saskatchewan students in grades 2-9, and also provides valuable work experience opportunities for post-secondary undergraduate students and high school volunteers. 

“According to Statistics Canada, EYES has reached 25 per cent of all youth in Saskatchewan,” said Moore. “To think that one out of every four students in the province has been directly impacted by our program is phenomenal, and we are still growing!” 

Since its inception, EYES has reached an astounding 206,000 Saskatchewan students. Last year alone, more than 27,000 students were involved with EYES, almost a 40 per cent increase from the year prior. 2018 also saw EYES hire the most undergrads in the history of the program, while continuing their focus on Indigenous and under-represented youth. 

“We have solidified our relationship with Treaty 4 Education Alliance,” said Moore, “and we have combined Indigenous knowledge and STEM curriculum, bringing our program to many under-served rural schools in the province.” 

Dr. Esam Hussein is dean of Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and oversees the development of the EYES program. 

“Megan Moore is passionate about her work and has been doing an amazing job at EYES,” said Dr. Hussein. “Since her involvement, enrolment numbers and programs have increased dramatically, and funding has continued to grow thanks in large part to Megan’s efforts.” 

Moore highlights the fact that although in previous years the EYES workshops had a nominal presentation fee attached, they are now offered free of charge because they had such a positive response after offering a complimentary class last year. And this March, EYES is set to partner with the Regina Public Library (RPL) to offer free professional development workshops for teachers in the city. “Tech lending” will also be introduced, which allows Library patrons to borrow computer equipment and the latest tech gadgets from the RPL. And if you’re not in Regina, there’s good news on the way--the technology lending program will be rolled out provincially in two to three years. 

One of the most successful technology kits that has been offered through the EYES curriculum is the wildly popular micro:bit kit, which teaches youth about coding and digital literacy. The micro:bit package has been one of the most popular kits with teachers in the province, who enjoy the pre-developed lesson plans offered by EYES. 

“Teachers are innovators,” said Moore, “and we want to provide them with the tools they need so they can do what they do, only better. This is a new approach to education; becoming empowered with knowledge. We teach the teachers so they can teach the kids.” 

Registration for 2019 camps will open on March 15, and in-class workshop registration is already open for the 2019 season. For more information about the EYES program and how to register, please visit: eyes.uregina.ca. You can also follow their story on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube