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NII Explore delivers STEM education and coding to local students

Hundreds of eyes watched guest science teacher Phillip Craig, Director of NII Explore, hold up a jar of soil to the camera as he asked the excited grade one and two students what soil is made of.


The replies came fast and furious: “Dead bugs!”, “Sand!”, “Leaves!”, and “Poop!”, which unsurprisingly turned the remote class into a screen full of giggles.

With this most unusual school year coming to an end, NII Explore’s second week of Science in the Classroom programming is underway. The goal of the program? To help lighten the load of teachers by bringing fun, interactive STEM learning to more than 180 classrooms remotely across Bruce, Grey and Huron counties.


A young student mixes soil and water as her class listens to a poem about soil.

Covering the Ontario science curriculum, the programming includes topics such daily and seasonal changes, soil, conservation and energy, space, and heat.


Teachers receive lesson plans on these topics as well as take-home assignments to extend the learning with their students.


Sponsored by Bruce Power, the program features three two-week sessions that run until the end of the school year for students from kindergarten to grade eight.


And while the classes are already at capacity, with more than 5,000 eager participants, parents and teachers can explore many of these lessons on the NII Explore Instagram account @NIIExplore or at nii.ca/explore.

“We know that this has been a long year for everyone, teachers and students alike, so we are just happy to help where we can and bring some excitement into science class,” said Phillip Craig. “The world is a pretty cool place—helping students explore it and make these discoveries, all while having fun, has been great to see.”

Also presented to classrooms around the region is the free NII Explore Coding in the Classroom program. Since March 2020, NII has delivered coding classes to more than 1,400 students—initially as an extra-curricular offering and this year to classrooms across Bruce and Grey counties.


The program supports grade 2-8 curriculum goals of patterns, problem-solving and literacy education, helping rural students learn foundational skills that are key to working in a digital economy.

Before the stay-at-home order, a grade 3 class from École Port Elgin Saugeen Central gets an introduction to coding.

While coding may seem daunting at first, NII Explore staff have created a space where coding can be explored in a fun, easy-to-understand way—even for those who have never taken part in coding education before.


“My students loved the coding classes! They were very engaged. Some tried to rush ahead and didn't wait for instructions as they were so enthusiastic and confident,” said Jennifer McKellar, a grade 4 teacher at Huron Heights Public School in Kincardine.


Laura Sandre, a grade 5/6 French Immersion teacher at Immaculate Conception School in Formosa, agrees:

“It turned out to be an activity that bolstered individual skills but also class cooperation. My favourite student quote was: ‘Well I'm creative, so I knew I could do it. And you know I'm always up for a challenge!’”

While the program is ending for this term, NII looks forward to the next season of Coding in the Classroom this fall.


NII Explore is a program dedicated to delivering enhanced educational opportunities for school-aged children to learn, experiment, discover and create. NII Explore’s educational programming offers a range of learning styles that connects students to the best teaching and knowledge available. Learn more at nii.ca/explore.