Aboriginal math/English camp for local high schoolers

July 09, 2014

While many of their peers are enjoying what is fast becoming a sizzling summer, 25 Aboriginal students in Grades 8 to 11 have their noses to the grind at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus.

The students from Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Cloverdale and Pitt Meadows are participating from July 2-31 in the first SFU Academic Camp for Aboriginal Students.

These charter participants are real keeners. They let their schools’ Aboriginal support workers know of their interest in engaging in SFU’s new day-long summer math and English training camps, which include a grounding in all that a university education has to offer them.

“B.C. Aboriginal students often struggle with math and this camp is about helping them,” explains Veselin Jungic, an adjunct professor and associate chair in the math department. Jungic is also the key architect of SFU’s Math Catcher Outreach program to help young Aboriginal children learn math.

“The percentage of Aboriginal students who wrote and passed the mathematics 12 provincial exam in the period 1995 to 2001 was five to six per cent versus 26 to 27 per cent in the non-Aboriginal student population.”

After breakfast and morning snacks in the IRMACS Centre’s atrium, each student in the new program will have the undivided attention of Natasa Sirotic, a math teacher, and Wendy Law, a volunteer math teacher. Sirotic is finishing her doctoral studies in SFU’s Faculty of Education. Law is enrolled in the faculty’s Professional Development Program.

The Aboriginal students also study with Zaccheus Jackson, an English teacher and Blackfoot Nation member, who helps them improve their English communication.

“I think this intense level of attention and engagement will help these students to catch up on what they’ve been unable to grasp in math content and to also discover their own academic abilities,” predicts Jungic.

Among the out-of-classroom activities scheduled to help the students discover how rich and interdisciplinary academia can be are the following:

SFU’s IRMACS Centre, math department and OAP have organized this inaugural camp for Aboriginal students with the financial support of the following groups:

SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences has also organized a series of events for the camp’s participants.