Gwich'in Outdoor Classroom Project

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Gwich'in Outdoor Classroom project was a culture-based crime prevention program in the communities of Fort McPherson and Aklavik, Northwest Territories. The project was designed for Aboriginal children aged 6 to 12, living in remote northern communities. Participating children faced multiple risk factors associated with crime, such as a lack of attachment to school and to community role models, addictions, involvement in youth gangs and lack of parental support.

The main components of the project included an outdoor camp, a morning breakfast program, and in-school programming involving life and communication skills, Elders, and traditional learning. The morning breakfast program, not part of the original project proposal, was added in response to a need identified in the community.

Project assessment

Process and outcome evaluations were conducted. Methods of data collection included interviews, standardized tests of children's functioning, informal community and regional discussions and program observation. Evaluators paid particular attention to cultural and environmental factors during the data collection phase.

The evaluation was based on collected pre- and post-test data. In total, 112 participants took part in the evaluation including a comparison group in the Aklavik community.

Key findings

The process evaluation showed that:

The outcome evaluation showed that:

Lessons learned

Lessons learned included:

Conclusion

The Gwich'in Outdoor Classroom is a promising crime prevention model. This project combined the Gwich'in tradition and contemporary social skills instruction.

Overall, there was a significant improvement in school achievement for both boys and girls and it was successful in helping boys aged 6 to 9 years to develop positive social skills. Programs that positively influence school attendance, such as the morning breakfast program, may be essential to increase the participation of children at-risk.

For more information or to receive a copy of the final evaluation report please contact the National Crime Prevention Centre at 1-800-830-3118, or visit our website.

You can also visit the website of Gwich'in Outdoor Classroom Project.

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