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Iqaluit school boosts attendance 20 per cent with blended cultural programs

Don Peters is the principal of the Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School in Iqaluit. In the past seven years that he’s held the position, he’s put his efforts towards finding programs that engage students and improve the attendance rates.

“The attendance rates seven years ago were hovering around 60-62 per cent. Today, our attendance rates are 86 per cent for this month, with a peak of 89 per cent this year of 2016. So we’re very excited about the advances we’ve made,” said Peters.

“We try to be the most entertaining and the most exciting activity that’s happening here in Iqaluit.”– Don Peters, principal of the Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School

The types of programs the school offers cover after school clubs, sciences classes spent out on the land, and shop classes teaching students the skills to repair everyday equipment, like snowmobiles.

“Going out on the ice in the qamutiiks and Skidoos involves a lot of skills: it requires knowing how to get there; how to be safe; how to load qamutiiks; how to repair Skidoos–these are the type of things that are traditional knowledge that we share when we work with the kids.” said Peters.

Getting out on the land and onto the ice is an interactive activity that stimulates students’ interests. “One of the big areas that children love are our land programs,” said Peters.

“Our land programs right now are running every day that we can get out. For instance, if the temperatures drop to -26 C we’re able to get out onto the Frobisher Bay. But if they are at -40 C or we have blizzards, we cancel. So we’re averaging about two days week.”

In addition to these interactive land programs, the school uses video conferencing technology to link classrooms to their Southern counterparts and guest speakers across the country. It all amounts to the goal that Peters has developed for the school: “We try to be the most entertaining and the most exciting activity that’s happening here in Iqaluit.”

With an attendance increase of over 20 per cent in seven years, the numbers show that these programs are paying off.

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By Ayesha Barmania

Ayesha Barmania is an independent journalist, radio producer, audio artist and podcast consultant based in Peterborough, Ontario.