The 2020 Learning Project
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created a significant disruption in education, creating immense pressure for the community groups and schools that help our children learn every day. That’s why last year’s Learning Project focused on supporting the inspiring efforts organizations across Canada made to fill the K-12 education gap.
We were thrilled to be able to support 30 organizations across the country as they worked to keep kids learning during these uncertain times.
Our 2020 Learning Project Grantees
Boys and Girls Clubs of St. John’s
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – Through their summer day camps, The Boys and Girls Clubs of St. John’s provides a safe and supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life. To address new social distancing guidelines, the Boys and Girls Club of St. John’s is modifying their summer camp programming for children ages 5-12 who live in low-income or government-subsidized housing. The 10-week camps will provide a respite for families struggling to keep their children engaged at home and ensure a sense of normalcy for the kids. Learn more here.
Scientists in School
National – Scientists in School is Canada’s leading science charity helping bring science experiences to nearly 25,000 classrooms across Canada every year. COVID-19 forced the charity to suspend its hands-on STEM programs, many of which were aimed to help low-income communities obtain fundamental STEM skills required for the future of work. As a result, the charity is expecting the educational gap to widen. To help students in under-served communities rebound from this gap, Scientists in School is providing three Family Science Night programs at the beginning of the next school year, serving up to 450 students. Learn more here.
Kids Boost Immunity
National – At a time when children may feel helpless or scared about their health, Kids Boost Immunity (KBI) provides students with the tools to identify problems and react in a positive and meaningful way. KBI is a free World Health Organization accredited digital learning platform that pairs local learning with global vaccines provided to children in need, through UNICEF. Designed to arm children in grades 4-12 against misinformation about immunizations and vaccines, KBI is offering a series of new lessons about the search for a COVID-19 vaccine through articles, videos and quizzes. Currently over 1,000 teachers in 350 schools have registered for the program. Learn more here.
Ottawa Community Housing Foundation
Ottawa, Ontario – The Ottawa Community Housing Foundation (OCHF) supports families, children, youth and seniors living in Ottawa’s social housing. Over the past few months, OCH families have been dealing with significant stressors that place them at a disadvantage. Beyond common challenges like food security, safety and managing family dynamics, support for children’s academic learning has become a new challenge identified throughout this pandemic. In partnership with Wintergreen Learning Materials, OCHF is developing three at-home learning kits to support Math, Literacy and Creativity & Movement curriculum for children up to grade 4. The kits will be delivered to approximately 100 homes of vulnerable newcomer and low-income families. Learn more here.
Albert Community School
Regina, Saskatchewan – Albert Community School is located in one of Regina’s highest-needs communities. When schools closed their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, only one student in the school had access to technology for distance learning. In response, the school’s teachers have pulled together to create and deliver bi-weekly Learning Kits to each family. Their resourcefulness and dedication give children the opportunity to continue learning with engaging educational resources right at their fingertips. Learn more here.
Future Possibilities for Kids
Greater Toronto Area, Ontario – Future Possibilities for Kids works with children aged 9-12 in underserved communities to build confidence through community service projects. With the cancellation of their summer Camp Contribution program, Future Possibilities knew they needed to keep children inspired and engaged over the summer months. Ready, Set, Connect! is a free, fully virtual 3- free summer program, expected to reach up to 600 children. It will provide children with a way to connect with each other and continue learning and developing skills in a guided and structured way. Learn more here.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – For the past three years, READ Saskatoon has partnered with Saskatoon Public School to deliver its Reading Guide program. This program supports student literacy with the help of trained literacy volunteers, which is especially important during school closures as reading skills typically decrease without access to regular formal education. COVID-19 shed a light on opportunity to pivot this resource online, so that it can reach even more children in the surrounding communities. To support the program, an additional 15 Chromebooks are being purchased for kids who require extra support. Learn more here.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Lloydminster
Lloydminster, Alberta – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lloydminster provides youth with volunteer-based mentoring programs. The organization’s three-tiered response to physical distancing is focused on maintaining social connections, protecting youth and community wellness and supporting distance learning while motivating kids to achieve. Their newly created summer garden program teaches participants about responsibility, ownership and self-confidence while maintaining social distancing protocols to keep kids safe. The gardening program will also provide both physical and mental health by through connecting with nature. Learn more here.
Boîte à Lunch
Montréal, Quebec – Boîte à Lunch knows that food has a way of bringing people together. The free after-school cooking and nutrition workshops for students run in several underserved and underprivileged Montréal neighborhoods. It aims to leave students feeling more confident in their ability to make healthy food choices. In a normal year, the program reaches over 1,000 children and youth. Current health and safety regulations have forced the organization to rethink and rework its workshops and summer activities in order to take into account physical distancing requirements. In response to the pandemic Boîte à Lunch is piloting a recipe box and online workshop project this summer with the intent of introducing the program when school resumes in September. Learn more here.
Social Diversity for Children Foundation
Vancouver Area, British Columbia – Social Diversity for Children provides education and learning programs to empower children with disabilities in the Vancouver region, with a focus on ending the stigma and systemic discrimination of these children within the school system. Their programs build empathy and understanding between kids living with disabilities and kids who don’t. They also provide communities with resources and training to interact with children with disabilities in a confident and effective way. Funding will be used to adapt and continue programming throughout the summer and fall, enabling over 200 children with disabilities to benefit. Learn more here.
The Writers’ Exchange
Vancouver, British Columbia – The Writers’ Exchange offers free summer reading programs that support over 650 inner-city kids living in Vancouver’s highest-needs communities. Many of these children face multiple barriers and have minimal opportunities to practice their literacy skills. As a result of COVID-19, WE’s programs had to be paused for the spring but the team is slowly launching in-person reading and writing programs this summer. They hope to help as many as 170 children and youth by the end of the year while also promoting remote support for families. Learn more here.
Je Passe Partout
Montréal Area, Quebec – Je Passe Partout helps young people and underprivileged families living in neighborhoods near Montréal with programs aimed at fostering a love of learning. Ahead of the next school year, the organization is establishing a new distance learning program for math and literacy to help students who are experiencing academic difficulties. This new service will reach 60 families and will help ensure underprivileged youth stay motivated and engaged with their learning. Learn more here.
Focus on Nature
Southern Ontario, Ontario – Focus on Nature is a charity providing a photography-based educational program designed to engage youth in exploring and connecting with the natural world. The program was born out of concerns about the impacts of a growing disconnect between young people and the world around them. One of the program’s key priorities is to reach children and youth who might otherwise not have opportunities for specialized arts instruction or positive outdoor experiences. Before COVID-19, various workshops and camps in Ontario were in the works, but the social distancing rules required the organization to pivot to free online resources. Focus on Nature is now working to offer its program to 15 different schools in low income neighbourhoods in September. Learn more here.
Whitefish River First Nation, Ontario – With a school closure that lasted more than two months, Shawanosowe School in Whitefish River First Nation, didn’t have enough computers to provide to students for distance learning. Serving 42 students from JK – Grade 6, teachers did their best to deliver lessons with only 12 Chromebooks and many students doing homework on their parents’ phones. The school is now working to ensure that all students are equipped with computers so that when students leave the community to attend provincial schools in Grade 7, they will have access to the right tools to help them succeed. Learn more here.
Terra Centre for Teen Parents
Edmonton, Alberta – The Terra Centre for Teen Parents has a collaborative partnership with Edmonton Public Schools to support pregnant and parenting teen mothers completing their high school education. One key program is their Youth Leadership program, which provides the opportunity for participants to develop soft skills and learn to manage the challenge of balancing school and parenting. The Youth Leadership program is unique because most leadership programs for adolescents are not flexible enough for the needs of teen parents. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Terra Centre is making this program virtual and offering it to teen parents across Alberta. Learn more here.
Boys and Girls Clubs Kingston & Area
Kingston Area, Ontario – The Boys and Girls Clubs Kingston & Area learning programs enable children and youth to develop and achieve their educational goals, career aspirations and embrace life-long learning. It offers Southeastern Ontario’s only intensive clinic for students with reading difficulties and dyslexia, as well as supporting writing and mathematics. COVID-19 forced the closure of the clinic and has intensified the difficulties these learners face as they transitioned to online learning. In response, the Club is moving its tutoring sessions online so that children can continue to get the academic support they need in an easy and accessible way. Learn more here.
The PACT Program
Toronto, Ontario – The PACT Urban Peace Program is a charity committed to working with, supporting, and empowering underserved, marginalized and at-risk young people in Toronto. One of their programs is PACTMusic, an urban music and life skills workshop. In order to safely provide this program during the COVID-19 pandemic, PACT is turning its program virtual. Mindfulness, vocal and music lessons will be provided over Zoom, and 15 instruments, including guitars and keyboards, as well as sheet music, will be loaned to participants for 8-week learning sessions. Learn more here.
Prospective Medical Professionals
National – Prospective Medical Professionals (PuMP) is a youth-run non-profit organization that connects students to opportunities in healthcare, breaking down the high barriers of entry into STEM careers for underrepresented communities. Regularly relying on donations from local businesses, many partnerships were suspended due to COVID-19. As a result of nation-wide school closures, PuMP is expanding its digital initiatives and resources for youth across Canada. This includes the development of an information portal that does a deep dive into health sciences career paths, an online database where students can access bio-related opportunities, and the provision of guest speakers regarding careers in STEM. Learn more here.
Fuel for Fun
Toronto, Ontario – Fuel for Fun is a one-day-a-week collaboration between FoodShare and the MLSE Launchpad which delivers fun, interactive sports and nutrition programming for grade 4-6 students in the high-needs Regent Park and Moss Park neighborhoods of Toronto. COVID-19 resulted in the closure of the program, leaving students without adequate peer and teacher connections, physical activity and nutrition and mentorship opportunities. In response, the team has designed a new program which is safe, equitable and effective using smaller groups, more volunteers and staff, and online supports. Learn more here.
Winnipeg, Manitoba – NorWest Co-op is a community health agency serving a high-needs neighbourhood in Winnipeg. They have been working around the clock to meet a new and expanded set of needs experienced by the community as a result of COVID-19. Many families in this community do not have computers or WIFI to keep up with remote learning, and the learning loss normally observed during July & August has been compounded by additional months without in-school instruction. In order to help families who are struggling to support the educational needs of their children, the team is launching a summer learning project. The project will provide online literacy, numeracy, science, geography, health, music activities for children in grades K-6. Learn more here.
Frontlines on the Frontlines
Toronto, Ontario – Frontlines is a community organization working to addresses the educational needs of children and youth in some of Toronto’s underserved communities. With schools closed as a result of COVID-19, the lack of individualized support has caused many youth to fall behind in their learning. In response, Frontlines has expanded its online tutoring program, providing two one-hour professional individual tutoring sessions each week for 75 students. Frontlines’ quick response to the pandemic has helped ensure that these youth do not fall between the cracks of the educational system. Learn more here.
YWCA of Metro Vancouver
Vancouver, British Columbia – The YWCA Metro Vancouver aims to strengthen the social and emotional health of children and help them successfully transition from elementary to secondary school. With schools closed as a result of COVID-19, the YWCA Metro Vancouver’s Youth Education Programs were not able to run. These programs filled a vital role supporting youth and providing them with connection, the importance of which was amplified during this period of social distancing. Staff have worked hard to adapt and create new programs with a focus on fostering social and emotional skills. This includes developing a set of materials for families to explore programs together, and also offering live weekly sessions delivered through Zoom. Learn more here.
The Adams River Salmon Society
Kamloops and North Okanagan, British Columbia – The Adams River Salmon Society is a charitable organization located in British Columbia’s interior serving 20,000 students the Kamloops and North Okanagan school districts. It aims to increase children’s knowledge of local ecology, indigenous populations, wetlands, watersheds, and the implications of our human activities on the natural environment. The team is expanding its educational programming both at Tsútswecw Provincial Park and online, and will launch a school curriculum for elementary, middle school and high school audiences in time for the 2020/2021 school year. Learn more here.
Glenwood, Newfoundland and Labrador – Lakewood Academy is a K-12 school in a small community in Central Newfoundland. In order to ensure that students can safely practice social distancing when they return to school in the fall, a group of teachers, administrators and community volunteers are banding together to build an outdoor multi-use classroom. It will provide space for fresh-air learning, outdoor meetings and school assemblies. The classroom will also offer a sheltered outdoor space during the many months of unforgiving east coast weather.
ABC Head Start Society
Edmonton, Alberta – ABC Head Start Society is a comprehensive early learning, family support and community connection program for disadvantaged families with young children in Edmonton. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has cut families off from the essential pre-school learning services provided by the ABC. In response, the organization is developing Preschool Toolboxes filled with essential learning tools such as craft supplies, markers, and small toys, which are then used by families to interact with their teachers virtually. The Toolbox provides enough supplies to support whole family programming throughout the summer, reaching over 400 pre-school children as well as their siblings. Learn more here.
Judith Nyman Secondary School
Brampton, Ontario – Youth Empowering Students for Mental Health (Yes4MH) is a collaboration between the Peel District Youth Empowering Students for Mental Health (Yes4MH) is a collaboration between the Peel District School Board and Region of Peel that promotes activities to help maintain positive mental health. The planning and implementation of these mental activities is given to high school students. One school, Judith Nyman Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario, is launching a mental health app for board-wide use. The app helps students manage their stress and maximize their learning, and also allows educators to help students with special education needs. With an aim of building resiliency through promoting positive mental health, this app could benefit up to 500 students. Learn more here.
Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation
Thunder Bay Area, Ontario – Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation is increasing food security for close to 170 students and families in the Thunder Bay region. The Learning Through Connection project uses gardening as a tool to nurture the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of students during the summer months. Garden-based activities provide life skills, food security and knowledge of plants, food sustainability and healthy eating. During a scary and uncertain time for children, the program offers a form of stability, community and consistency. Learn more here.
M.V. Beattie Elementary School
Enderby, British Columbia – As a small school located in the city of Enderby, British Columbia, M.V. Beattie Elementary School is committed to authentic reconciliation and keeping yi7élye (“this place”) at the heart of its community. Teachers are planning to have the entire student body of 300 students come together to learn about yi7élye from traditional knowledge keepers with various field trips, including to Splatsin Kekuli. During these trips they will investigate and learn about First Peoples cultures, medicines, traditions and arts, allow students to build community and foster a spirit of pride and reconciliation. Learn more here.
Simcoe County, Ontario – La Clé is a non-profit organization offering multiple services to Simcoe County’s French-speaking population. Programs include educational childcare, child and family centers, child and youth assistance, and summer camps. COVID-19 required the team to make changes to their learning programs in order to keep serving the region’s French-speaking children. As a result, La Clé is developing several new French play-based online learning activities and games so that children continue to learn while maintaining their French language in a minority community. Learn more here.
Community Resource Centre
Wellington Region, Ontario – The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an opportunity for organizations to get creative with how they connect with each other. The Community Resource Centre offers before and after school programs to various schools in the Wellington region of Ontario. During school closures, many families served by CRC did not have access to outside learning opportunities or materials to help facilitate exploration or outdoor play. The Centre is addressing these challenges through their new Urban Eco Explorer program that offers tablets and guided online activities in conjunction with 50 physical nature kits that will provide the tools for children to do their own exploring at home. Learn more here.