Aboriginal students stir up some excitement in SFU's inaugural academic camp for Aboriginal students.

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SFU launches math/English camp for Aboriginal students

July 17, 2014
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While many of their peers are enjoying the lazy days of summer, 25 Aboriginal students in Grades 8 to 11 are immersed in academic lessons and activities SFU’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.

The charter participants are real keeners. They let their schools’ Aboriginal support workers know of their interest 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 those who want to be helped,” 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 has the undivided attention of Natasa Sirotic, a math teacher, and Wendy Law, a volunteer math teacher. Sirotic is finishing her doctoral studies in the Faculty of Education. Law is enrolled in the faculty’s Professional Development Program to become a teacher.

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,” says Jungic.

The camp includes a variety of interdisciplinary activities, including science sessions in the new Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education; visits to computer labs and the Surrey campus, archery lessons, and a tour of Burnaby Mountain with earth scientist John Clague, who will show them what landscape configuration can teach them.

SFU’s IRMACS Centre, Department of Math and the Office of Aboriginal Peoples have organized this inaugural camp for Aboriginal students with the financial support of the following groups:

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