2015 Camp

SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students 2015

Welcome to the 2015 SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal High School Students!


The camp is taking place at SFU Burnaby Campus between July 2-31, 2015. The camp is organized and supported by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the SFU Faculty of Science, the SFU Office for Aboriginal Peoples, the IRMACS Centre, and the SFU Department of Mathematics. The NSERC PromoScience Program provides partial financial support for the camp.

Our main objectives are to:

  • Increase Aboriginal student participation, retention and high school graduation rates by providing a more solid foundation in Mathematics, Science and English in preparation for admission and success in post secondary institutions.
  • Help Aboriginal students to realize that University's are a place for them and to feel empowered while they are here.

Organizing Committee:
Ms. Melania Alvarez, Ms. Pam Borghardt, and Dr. Veselin Jungic (Chair)

Week 1 Summary

Week 2 Summary

Week 3 Summary

Week 4 Summary

Week 1

Week one of camp has been full of activities, learning and incredible people. The opening day was full of generosity and caring- Mr. William Lindsey did our opening, Mr. Gary George sang a welcoming song, Dr. Felix Breden welcomed us to IRMACS, Ms. Melania Alvarez brought us greetings from the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences followed by gifts for the students from Ms. Marcia Guno (Indigenous Student Centre), Ms. Cynthia Henson (Faculty of Science) and Ms. Ciara Morgan-Feir (Indigenous recruiting). Following lunch and the math assessment test, the students ended opening day touring the SFU campus with Dr. Veselin Jungic, the Chair of the Organizing Committee, and Ms. Sheryl Thompson, the Camp Coordinator.

Math with Mr. Jordan Forseth starts with individual learning packages and ends with everyone’s favorite … riddles! At a restaurant, how could you choose one out of three deserts with equal probability with the help of a coin?

English with Ms. Carley Henze is combining teamwork and writing as each classmate contributes a vital component to everyone else’s story. She is weaving literary terms and visual arts to teach the students the power of storytelling.

We met Ms. Janelle Dobson-Kocsis, an Indigenous scholar who shared her love of math, puzzles and life. We were honoured to have her share her story of resilience, perseverance, triumph and accomplishment with us.

Dr. Gail Anderson taught us about insects and how they can rule out murder suspects complete with photos and video! She followed up her remarkable lecture with a tour of her lab and the morgue. It will not be easy to top that!

Ms. Sherri Ferguson led a tour of the inside of the Environmental Medicine and Physiology Unit and their hyperbaric chamber while Gary taught us how to use the controls. The children got to see firsthand the effects of 3 atmospheres on an inflated glove and took selfies inside the chamber.

We had an eventful day of recreation playing soccer, dodgeball and Mickey Mouse kick-ball. Everyone had fun team-building and playing games together. Unfortunately, the day ended with one broken arm … get well soon Kristian!

Ms. Natasha Davidson from Douglas College combined origami and math for an afternoon of folding, geometry and arithmetic. Everyone had fun using math to make ninja stars and construct with sonobe modules. Who knew you could do origami with one hand ;)

The student’s journaling was led by Ms. Kay Lever, a teacher at Vancouver School Board, as she helped them with their directed studies assignments. Everyone is getting excited about their options for their big presentation project.

Members of the Squamish Nation Education Department shared teachings and artifacts with us as they wove math into traditional ways of learning. Everyone had an opportunity to make art with bulrush reeds and practice using traditional weapons. Ms. Anjie Dawson, Ms. Tracy Williams, and Mr. Norman Guerrero rocked the house!

The students have been having a great time learning. They arrive early, excited to start and exit the classrooms smiling and enlightened.

What a fantastic first week!

- Ms. Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

Week 2

Week 2 of the camp has been jam packed with fun and exciting learning opportunities.

Mr. Dave Robinson, an Algonquin wood sculptor shared his newest masterpiece. He also shared some of the lessons he has learned during his journey as a boxer, a teacher and a carver. “Bring yourself to the question with the tools needed to answer it AND the answer will never be less work.”

Ms. Ciera Morgan-Fier from the SFU Indigenous Student Centre shared some of the many ways to enrol in post-secondary school. The importance of course planning, asking questions and finding programs that help support our interests. Don’t forget to check out SFU’s Bridging Program if you need to upgrade.

Dr. Ivona Mladenovic took us through the steps for cloning animals. Mimi and Mini-Mimi were fun visual representations but not nearly as interesting as the possibility of resurrecting mammoths. We had great ethical debates over reintroducing extinct species and cloning humans … the thought of a 16 year old baby is intriguing.

Ms. Fumiko Suzuki honoured us with her presence all day. Her positivity was infectious and her lessons about perseverance and hard work were present in every story she shared. Every success she enjoyed was preceded by recognition, practice and preparation. But mostly … practice practice practice ☺

Dr. Shawn Desaulnier spent the afternoon challenging everyone to math puzzles and games. From dividing chocolate getting the whole family across the bridge he kept everyone thinking and laughing. The tangrams we made provided for both frustration and triumph and it was a fun afternoon.

FIELD TRIP!!! We spent the day at UBC hosted by Ms. Melania Alvarez Adem. We toured the Museum of Anthropology and our guide Kav highlighted some of the exhibits. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the beautiful Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Science building followed by a tour of the Triumf physics lab where we learned that a particle accelerator can give us all magnetic personalities.

Ms. Leslie Varley and Mr. Tysun Tallman from The Aboriginal Health, Provincial Health Services Authority shared their organization’s goal of training all peoples to be culturally competent in their relationships with Aboriginal peoples. Their Decolonize youth films inspired some great discussions.

Ms. Sara Neuert and Mr. Scott Munro from The First Nations Financial Management Board shared how their organization provide support and create opportunities for sound financial management. They helps First Nations communities’ access bond markets which lets them borrow funds like other governments within Canada. They also shared tips on how to manage personal finances.

It’s hard to believe that we are half-way through.
Another fantastic week.

- Ms. Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

Week 3

It is amazing how many incredible and talented people share their time and energy with us and this week has been no exception.

Our week started with a tour of 4D LABS where we were hosted by Nathanael Sieb and his teams of researchers as we learned about many of the exciting projects taking place in their materials research institute.

In the LASIR lab, Saeid Kamal taught us the difference between a pulse and continuous lasers and gave us a demonstration of the changing colours of lasers based on the wavelength. Xin Zhang, in the Nanoimaging lab showed us the nanoscopic detail of aphids as he explained the workings of the various microscopes. It was interesting to learn how cryogenics made the photos possible. After everyone played with the shoe cleaner Chris Balicki showed us the Nanofabrication Lab including the clean room with the bunny suits. We also got to learn about the cutting edge holographic imaging that may one day be used for currency security. Great Logo! We met Scott Beaupre in the Branda Lab and he explained how nanoparticles in solutions are used for medical applications, particularly photo-dynamic therapies. He also told us a little about his own research and journey. In the Yu LabSamuel Weng and Lishen Zhang gave us a demonstration of super-hydrophobic and super-hydrophilic coatings. How incredible that a microscopically smooth or rough surface can have such a dramatic difference. Tania Castillo and Sameera Toenjes in the Gates Lab explained how nanoparticles change surface structures to promote drug delivery the magnetic liquid was very cool … almost as cool as their dance party. A special thanks to our tour guides Mohamad Rezaei, Grace Li and Tom Cherng.

Dr. Nancy Forde form the Department of Physics brought the visual spectrums of light to life as we used lasers, prisms and her “stylish glasses” to observe many of its properties. The students learned how wavelengths, energy, quantity and intensity played a role and they watched the light “dance” across the wall. Thank-you Michael Kirkness and Christina for sharing your talents with us.

We were honoured to have Ms. Joanne Arnott, an award winning poet, as a guest speaker. Ms. Arnott shared with students her wisdom and got them involved in poetry creating activities.

SFU Recreation department offered us a day of fun and teamwork. We played line-tag, Camouflage and Sardines to get our blood pumping and ended our day with some friendly competition over archery and Mafia.

Ms. Brenda Davison from the Department of Mathematics spent a fun filled afternoon of math through pattern recognition and hearty competition. Who knew this game SET existed … fantastic. We also learned that 3 blouses, 3 shirts, 3 trousers and 3 skirts = 81 possible outfits!

Ms. Noreen Pankewich from the School District 72 came from Kamloops to share an afternoon of teachings with us. The story of Hannah and the Spindle Whorl created a perfect backdrop for our beautiful art projects. The value of sharing our knowledge with each other is a powerful message. Huy tseep q’u!

Ms. Daniela Abasi from the Faculty of Applied Science put together a great workshop and along with Mr. Steven Price, the students constructed and battled robots. What an entertaining, educational and very competitive afternoon. Great teamwork! Special thanks go out to Mr. Mircea Trans, Mr. Ken Yuan, Ms. Joanna Che, and Mr. Thomas McKay for all of your help and guidance.

We have one more fun filled and exciting week left to go.

- Ms. Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

Week 4

It is hard to believe but this is the last summary I will write for 2015. The camp has offered us experiences that are enriching and educational and Week 4 has been exceptional.

The week began with a tour of the Trottier Observatory where Dr. Howard Trottier allowed the students to control the observatory roof and he took us on a guided tour of the facility. The grounds around the observatory are a beautiful work of art full of educational surprises that can be appreciated on your own or by joining Howard on a Starry Night.

Mr. Kyle Bobiwash led us in a dynamic workshop about pollination. Of the over 450 types of bees in Canada, 80 are here in the lower mainland … all of them helping to ensure our survival! Dr. Erin Barley helped lead everyone on the microscopes as we learned to differentiate wasps, bees and flies.

Ms. Loretta Todd, an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker, shared with the camp participants the trailer of her latest project, "Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show".

Our incredible recreation team ended our last day with a scavenger hunt and everyone’s favourite … Mafia.

Ms. Natalie Wood-Wiens shared her own journey of discovery as she applied her talents and education towards a career that let her serve the community. Her work at SFU’s Aboriginal Bridging programs have made it possible for many Indigenous peoples to acquire the prerequisites necessary to enter postsecondary institutions.

Ms. Jennie Blankinship shared her role as SFU’s Indigenous recruiter as she outlined many of the options available to students after graduation, including the process for direct entry into SFU. Remember to contact her in grade 12 for assistance or advice.

We concluded the week with what I believe is the greatest highlight of the camp … the students Independent Directed Studies presentations. Under the guidance of Ms. Kay Lever the students completed their project booklets to earn high school credits. The students seized the opportunity to reflect on what they had learned and to share their personal experiences with the group. I was honoured to witness the respect and kindness they showed each other as they participated in this final bonding experience.

As I write this I find myself reflecting on everything I have shared in during camp. I am truly honoured to have spent the past month watching this group of incredibly kind, generous and smart people come together as a community of supportive and inquisitive Indigenous scholars. You should all be very proud of yourselves and of each other. You are stronger today because of the experiences you have embraced and the people you have chosen to share your path with. Remember to nurture your new found network of friends and mentors. You are worth it.

I wish each of you continued success.

- Ms. Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

(An interview with Ms. Thompson for SFU OLS is available here.)