2016 Camp

SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students 2016

Welcome to the 2016 SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal High School Students!


The camp was taking place at SFU Burnaby Campus between July 4-29, 2016. The camp was organized and supported by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the SFU Faculty of Science, the SFU Office for Aboriginal Peoples, the SFU Indigenous Student Centre, the SFU Department of Mathematics, and the IRMACS Centre. The NSERC PromoScience Program provided 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.


Twenty-six students accepted our invitation to participate in the 2016 SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students. They came from 17 Nations and the following BC communities: Bella Bella, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, and Vancouver.

For more information, please contact Veselin Jungic at vjungic@sfu.ca.

For the Organizing Committee:
Dr. Veselin Jungic

Week 1 Summary

Week 2 Summary

Week 3 Summary

Week 4 Summary

Week 1

July 4

We opened our camp with Elder Margaret George as she shared both her words of wisdom and encouragement. Marcia Guno from the Indigenous Student Centre also welcomed us to the campus and gifted the students with their coveted ISC water bottles.
After sharing a meal with each other, their families, and our guests the students got to work on their math, followed by a tour of the campus. We learned to distinguish between a Kiwi and a Kangaroo, jam, ham, and jello. We climbed the stairs to Terry Fox and we tried to comprehend the scale at the Trottier observatory. For the record 10-18 is a trillionth!
I am impressed by the great group of youth who have joined us this year and I am looking forward to a wonderful month.

July 5

Our first full day of class went well. Jordan makes math fun and Carley makes English exciting!
Thanks to Godwin Yi and his staff our recreation afternoon was a lot of fun. It was great to watch all the students made an effort to participate and everyone made a point of including others in the activities. Cruz, Aanchal, and Gabi led the students in ultimate Frisbee, soccer, and court games. The students had a great time!

July 6

Jordan’s math puzzles keep the students busy on their breaks trying to figure out how to get exactly 4 litres of water into a container. While Carley is guiding the students to recognize and define their own story.
Our afternoon lecture outlined some of the realities we all face in our highly technological lives. Cris Rowan from Zone’In Programs shared her research on technology and the developing brain, the importance of balance, and the need for children to spend a minimum of 30 minutes outside in nature every day. Check out her webpage at http://www.zonein.ca/, it’s full of ideas and resources for zoning back into life.

July 7

Marcia Guno shared a medicine wheel teaching with us where we learned about some of the many interconnected aspects if the wheel. She also spoke about the value, purpose, and use of medicine pouches.
Afterwards, we all got the chance to make our own medicine bags to carry on our journey. It was difficult work for some but I was impressed with the level of patience and maturity demonstrated by the students as they persevered with their projects. Thank-you Gary George for coming to help and Jesse Lecoy for putting all the packages together!

July 8

It’s hard to believe that a week has flown by already. The students arrive early, excited to learn and eager to start the day by sharing a meal together.
Math is still fun and English is still exciting. Way to go Jordan and Carley!
Our afternoon session with Sarah Louise Turner, Hannah Celinski, and Bethani L'Heureux was both challenging and rewarding. Incorporating voice, movement, and facial expressions as interrelated aspects of sharing yourself requires a high level of trust and vulnerability that I was honoured to witness from our students. The group created a space that was respectful and encouraging. It was inspiring to watch the students support each other and everyone participated in the experience.

What a fantastic week!

Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordiantor

Week 2

July 11

Today we had a great time with James Zhou in his chemistry lab. William, Ravneet and Gerald instructed us on how to extract DNA from a strawberry and we all became alchemists as we transformed liquids into silver.

July 12

Another fantastic day with the recreation staff! Aanchal and Gabi led some great games including ultimate Frisbee and everyone got a chance to swim and show-off their talents on the 5m board.

July 13

Today we had the pleasure of meeting Janelle Dobson-Kocsis and to listen to her story about her journey to becoming a psychiatric nurse. Her advice "Don't let negative experiences be an excuse to be a negative experience" are thoughtful words to reflect on.
Marcia Guno gave a presentation full of information about preparing for and attending post-secondary school.
Laurel Berg shared information about SFU’s Aboriginal University Transition Program that enables students to obtain university credits in a supported and culturally enriching environment. You can get more info from aboriginal_bridge@sfu.ca

July 14

Today we had a wonderful field trip to UBC.
We started our day at the Museum of Anthropology where we toured the exhibits. Many youth recognized artifacts from their home territories and one youth found a photograph of her uncle!
We followed that with a walk to PIMS where Melania Alvarez treated us to wonderful lunch, sunshine, and company. Thanks Malenia!
We ended our day with a tour of TRIUMF, Canada’s premiere subatomic physics research laboratory. We learned about the cyclotron, nuclear medicine, magnetic fields and clean rooms on our expertly guided tours. Marcello Pavan, Doug Storey, Ushieja De Zoysa, and Yang Lana answered questions, explained how things worked, assured us that the dust and lack of lab coats was indicative of “real” Science and they showed us how to make paperclips dance.
It was a fantastic day!

July 15

Another fantastic workshop with Sarah Louise TurnerHannah Celinski, and Bethani L'Heureux. We all worked on our rhythm and we learned to use our voices in new and unusual ways. The youth challenged themselves, took risks, and supported each other throughout the process.

Another great week!

Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

Week 3

Carley continues to work with the students as they develop their writing and storytelling abilities. The groups leave English happy and excited!
Jordan continues to help the students succeed at mathematics. They leave math class full of energy, questions, and riddles. I love ken-kens!

July 18

What a fantastic start to the week! Dr. Gail Anderson gave a riveting lecture on forensic entomology, a science that only came to Canada in the 1970's. We learned how insect larvae could help create a timeline of events and why "you should NEVER fall asleep with your mouth open at the beach" … yuck!
We followed that with a tour of her lab where we saw the larvae and flies in various stages of development.
The students got a tour of the morgue - thanks to Peter Locher. They got to see the layout, learn about security, and ask questions.
Chichi Lam shared her work on an ongoing case as she explained the clues embedded in bones. The students were also able to compare their hand against a bear paw. Thanks for the tour Chichi!

July 19

Aanchal and Gabi led the recreation session with fun activities like capture the flag and dodge ball. The students had a great time with the Recreation department.

July 20

Natasha Davidson came and shared her love of math with us. We learned how the ancient Moors used string and straight edges to create beautiful geometric works of art.
The students got to try their hand at creating their own patterns.

July 21

We had a great afternoon making hand drums. There were more than a half dozen volunteers who worked to prepare the hides and sinew for our workshop with Gary George. In addition to the prep-work, Deborah Smith, Christine Thompson, Keisha Whitford, and Kyle Bobiwash all came to lend a hand at the workshop. A very successful day.
We have 2 students off to The BC Summer Games … Good luck Hunter and Kye!

July 22

We had a great afternoon with Hannah Celinski, and Bethani L'Heureux. Our last voice and storytelling workshop was fantastic. In addition to the warm-ups and exercises, the students developed and presented skits, and took part in a group strengthening positive message exercise. What a fun session!

July 23

BC Games update … Hunter’s team has completed 5 games and will be competing the Bronze medal game tomorrow! Good luck Hunter!
Kye won the silver medal in his weight class. Congratulations Kye!!!

July 24

Hunter’s team has finished 4th overall. Well done Hunter! We are all very proud of you!

Thank-you for another amazing week!

Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordinator

Week 4

July 25

Our last week has started off with 6 word stories and fantastic math tricks. The youth come out of Carley’s English classes inspired and excited. Jordon’s Math classes continue to motivate the students to strive hard and to view math in new and interesting ways.
Dr. Lynne Quarmby shared her research on single celled amoeba. It was interesting to learn how one tiny cell could be used both for medical treatments and as indicators of global climate change.
She encouraged the group to learn about the crisis facing our planet and to ensure their voices are heard by both the policy makers and the corporations contributing to the problem. As she put it “The cost of doing nothing is higher than doing nothing”
She challenges us to always investigate the source of a story. Listen to Thomas King’s Massey Lectures http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2003-cbc-massey-lectures-the-truth-abo...

July 26

The students went out on campus and created sidewalk art using chalk and labeling items in multiple languages.
Another Recreation day full of Frisbee, swimming, and unexpected excitement. We are all glad that Shawna is feeling better.

July 27

Daniela Abasi and her amazing crew put on a fantastic robotics workshop. Shokoofeh Permehr shared her research on developing autonomous robots with face and voice recognition and the students had a great time building, walking, and ‘fighting’ their robots. Great job Gordon, Prithi, Lily, and Daniela P. The kids loved it!

July 28

Last day of regular classes and the much anticipated Ken-ken competition has arrived. Jordan officiated and the winner is ……. Everyone, of course ;)
The group is practicing their roles for tomorrow’s ceremony. Thank-you Hannah Celinski for stopping by to help!
For our last cultural activity the group made drumsticks and learned a song for the closing ceremony. I would like to thank my dear friends Deborah Smith and Trina Setah for coming out to lead this activity. Trina’s adaptation to the bone game song was a great success!
We also said good-bye to Zena Bruneau today – Thanks for everything Zena. You’re the BEST!
We missed Kelly Gardiner today, but thank-you for everything you did behind the scenes. You Rock Kelly!

July 29

Well …. This is it!

Our last day has arrived. The group has prepared and practiced and they are excited to showcase their talents, personalities, and accomplishments for their friends and families.

You have developed friendships, connections, and networks over this past month that we hope will help you be more prepared and more confident to pursue post-secondary education. Remember to nurture your connections; if a presenter, volunteer, or workshop coordinator was ‘Gucci’ drop them an email. If you need information about post-secondary – send Jennie (jennie_blankinship@sfu.ca) or one of us (Sheryl Thompson sherylt@sfu.ca or Dr. J. vjungic@sfu.ca) an email so we can direct you. We all want to help – You’ve got this – and we’ve got your back!

I am very proud of all of the participants, volunteers, teachers, staff members, and presenters. This camp is an incredible leap of faith which is emotional, taxing, and often very challenging but the rewards are immeasurably immense. The short-term benefits of our work is evident in the smiling and grateful faces of this year’s participants and their families. It can be measured by their participation rates, works completed, and through their shared stories. The long-tern benefit of our work may not be seen for years to come. For some, as they graduate high school and choose paths that they may never before considered or it may be through sharing what they have learned with others. In all cases, I am certain seeds have been planted.

It is with gratitude and honour that I write this last entry. Your words and stories at today’s ceremony were thoughtful, kind, and showed a level of understanding that few youth your age possess. You should all be very proud of yourselves for having decided to take this journey to spend half of your summer vacation taking ownership of your own learning.

You are an amazing and awesome group!

Sheryl Thompson, Camp Coordiantor