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Connected North tested by global pandemic, passes with flying colours

June 22, 2020

Students enjoy video-conference guest speakers and virtual field trips on topics close-to-home and on-the-land, developed in consultation with community leaders, Elders, teachers and students.

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Distance learning is nothing new to the schools of Connected NorthOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window . First established in 2013 with a single participating school, today the network comprises over 65 schools and over 15,000 students from the Yukon to Nunavut. The program connects classrooms to mentors, mental health and wellness sessions, sports events and experiences, museums, literacy and math support, Native language instruction, teacher training and more through creative tools, technology and in-classroom support.

So, when COVID-19 hit and schools shut, the team at Connected North was able to quickly pivot, launching Connected North@HomeOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window in late March, and continuing to serve students from partner communities without missing a drum beat. The recorded Connected North@Home sessions are now available to teachers and students around the world – a free, virtual field trip to a museum, zoo, art lesson or storytelling session is just a click away. Students can learn about coral reefs and sharks from the Vancouver Aquarium, discover chemical reactions with the Michigan Science Center, or explore the Aurora Borealis through art with the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

“Last year, Canada Life marked National Indigenous Peoples Day with a multi-year sponsorship of $500,000 combined for Connected North and Teach for Canada, and a goal of filling the education gap for Indigenous students in remote northern Manitoba communities,” said Jeff Macoun, President and Chief Operating Officer, Canada, at Canada Life. “What Connected North has achieved in Manitoba and more broadly across Canada, in one condensed school year and in the middle of a pandemic, is nothing short of remarkable.”

2019/2020 Report Card

  • In the 2019-2020 school year, Connected North delivered over 1,700 sessions to more than 15,000 Indigenous students across Canada.
  • Of these, 33 virtual sessions were delivered to 582 students in two participating Manitoba schools.
  • Connected North@Home reached over 10,000 students and families across the country in its first three months of programming.

Additionally, independent research on the program’s outcomes has shown that:

  • 95% of educators reported that the program was beneficial for their students
  • 89% of students felt the virtual sessions made learning more enjoyable
  • 64% of students felt they could be successful after a year of programming

Finally, the Connected North program has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)’s Humanitarian AwardOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window . Past recipients of this award include Justice Murray Sinclair, Theo Fleury and the Honorable Roméo Dallaire, to name but a few.

“We have a shared vision: to instill a sense of well-being that will allow Indigenous students within the Connected North network to successfully navigate their future paths through relationships, life, school and career,” says Jennifer Corriero, Executive Director, TakingITGlobal and the Connected North Program. “We thank all of the community leaders, Elders, teachers, and students who have guided the program’s direction and helped us to understand and respond to the needs of Indigenous youth in their communities. With the help of sponsors like Canada Life, we will continue the important work growing and enhancing what we do with the input from our schools and responding directly to their requests.”

Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 school year, there are plans to continue expanding Connected North programming in more Manitoba communities.

Read the backgrounder [PDF: 90kb]Opens in a new window - Opens in a new window for more information on Canada Life’s progress in its goals relating to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord, such as our support of the Connected North initiative.

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