In 1995, a group of engineering students in Regina noticed a gap in programming and science-based options for kids in Saskatchewan. They partnered with the University of Regina’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences to create EYES: Educating Youth in Engineering & Science.
“EYES was run by part-time undergraduate students for twelve years,” shares program coordinator, Megan Moore. “As the program continued to grow, they saw the need for a full-time coordinator, and it’s been spectacular.”
EYES is a science and engineering education program for youth in Regina and southern Saskatchewan. In a normal year, they see about 30,000 students, and the summer camps and workshops provide employment opportunities for undergraduate students. The whole premise is to create an inclusive and safe space for young STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students and provide a great camp experience based on topics that interest them.
“What I love about Saskatchewan is that there is so much passion for science, so the program has exploded,” smiles Moore. Although EYES initially started as a summer camp, it has since grown to deliver year-round programming, workshops, all-girls programs, satellite camps, classroom visits, field trips, and maker days, as well as teaching professional development content.
Classroom visits and field trips generally go from September through April and are run on an ad hoc basis. Since Saskatchewan is primarily a rural province and in recognizing that most of the students are outside of Regina and Saskatoon, teachers are encouraged to fill out a form then the EYES team works with the educators on a case-by-case basis to provide an experience their students want.
“One of my favourite examples was when we worked with this fantastic Indigenous community,” explains Moore. “We got a call from Cote First Nations, and they asked if we could do a marine biology and space lesson. We worked with the teacher to build the content, taking into consideration the time we had with the class, interests of the students, and barriers that the classroom may face, and we catered the program to the teacher and students.” During this experience, they shared a morning of marine biology followed by an afternoon of solar and lunar eclipses.
Since STEM can be so broad, EYES helps support educators in areas that they may not be comfortable with. Customizing classroom visits on an individual basis requires more work, but EYES understands that each school has different needs and has a goal to give meaningful experiences to the students.
Summer camps typically operate for seven weeks in July and August. “They are chaotic in the absolute best way possible,” Moore laughs. Camps mainly happen at the U of R, where grades 2-9 come for the full day over the course of a week and learn about a specific subject, and the junior program is for younger kids to solve a problem and come to a solution using STEM.
Grades 4-6 learn about general STEM and get a rounded experience of all things science, tech, bio, or chemistry. There are options for coding, 3D printing and design, robotics, and more.
Grades 7-9 are an extension of the grades 4-6 camps, but more in-depth. Kids have the freedom to work on projects that they are interested in, and the EYES team supports and troubleshoots the coding and programming.
“We also have an all-girls program open to all fem-identified youth,” Moore shares. Each day, they bring in a strong identified female mentor from the industry that interacts with the group. These programs are built based on career choice and provide girls with a memorable experience and advice for future career and family building.
Off-campus, EYES runs their outreach programs where they work with select community schools to provide free summer programming. They also operate satellite camps that are outside of Regina in areas such as Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Esterhazy, Shaunavon, and Watrous, and they’re piloting on-reserve summer camps as well. “I’ve been working in Saskatchewan for over four years, and in my experience, the youth are the future,” says Moore. “A part of investing in our future is investing in these kids.”
Innovation Saskatchewan has worked with the EYES program throughout the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years. Together, these two groups have been supporting the development of learning opportunities within the science and technology ecosystem at an early stage and making it accessible to all.
EYES is adding more diverse and accessible experiences in their programming. They are going outside of city limits, reaching people that may not be able to afford the camps, and exploring topics outside of the typical STEM curriculum, such as geography, oil, or land conservation.
“We’re providing technology and learning opportunities,” Moore shares. “The kids are our future, so if they are successful, so are we.”
Interview with: Megan Moore (Program Coordinator)
Involvement: 1 full-time team member; 12-14 part-time undergraduate students
Employees: 32 from May-July