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Gwich’in Outdoor Classroom project is a culture-based crime prevention program in the communities of Fort McPherson and Aklavik, Northwest Territories. The project is designed for Aboriginal children aged 6 to 12, living in remote northern communities. It was designed to intervene with those children who are at-risk of offending and to address some of the factors that place them at-risk in Gwich’in communities. Such factors include poor school performance, early school leaving, aggressive and bullying behaviours, limited social development, involvement in youth gangs, suicide, lack of attachment to school and community role models, lack of parental support, sexual assault, and family violence.
The main components of the project include 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.
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. Overall, it was found that 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.
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