Thomas, and his fellow Grade 5 and 6 students at John J. Sark Memorial School on Lennox Island, spent two hours after school each day for an entire week this month receiving computer animation and programming training.
Prince’s Charities Canada, the charitable office for Prince Charles, partnered with One Laptop Per Child Canada to provide computers and training to indigenous youth.
Lennox Island was one of seven First Nations across Canada to benefit from the pilot project.
Matthew Rowe, director of operations, Prince’s Charities Canada, said the participating schools and their students get to keep the computers.
Rowe said the students in the Lennox Island project created digital animation projects, talking mostly in Mi’Kmaq, about the traditions of their community. “The idea was to build digital skills while getting them to create projects that were giving them a chance to use the language and to learn it,” he said.
While digital animation is a new approach for the students, Rowe said Grade 5 and 6 students are a good age range to work with.
“They actually soak it up like sponges,” he said of the simplified coding language.
Grade 5/6 teacher Nicole Gorrill said the students already possessed basic computer skills but the shared project taught them new skills.
“What happened, for most of the students, it really piqued more of their interest for technology,” she observed. “They’ve been learning these new computer skills, but they are also now able to kind of take what they’re learning in their cultural class here at the school and they have a new way of displaying that so that they can teach their friends or other family members.
“It’s been really, really good to boost their self confidence.”
Grade 6 student Kavon Bernard is excited about the potential. He’d like to: “make animations, set them up to the Internet and get famous on animation.”
The students, working in teams of two, prepared one- to two-minute animation projects which they shared with other students, family members and elders. P.E.I. Lt. Gov. Frank Lewis and former premier Robert Ghiz, a member of the Prince’s Charities Advisory Council, were in attendance for the presentations.
“Lots of big, big smiles today,” Gorrill said in describing her students’ sense of accomplishment.
Rowe said schools involved in the pilot project also receive a year of ongoing support.