The camp’s attendees are aboriginal students from the Greater Vancouver area in grades eight to 11. The focus of the day-long sessions is math and english training, but they also expose the students to recreational activities, such as archery, as well as cultural activities that are organized by the Office for Aboriginal Peoples at SFU.
Some of the activities include meeting with elders, learning from Squamish performers how to dance and sing, and making dream catchers.
Veselin Jungic, an adjunct professor and associate chair in the math department, explained, “The purpose of the camp is to help aboriginal high school students in mathematics and English and to also introduce them to the academic environment [. . .] Most of the students are struggling with mathematics and they need another push to get the level of mathematics that will hopefully lead them to post-secondary education.”
Although the students are comprised of a mixture of different aboriginal ethnic backgrounds Jungic makes it clear that these differences do not affect the teaching method. He stated, “The students have an aboriginal background that we need to recognize and we need to support, but when it comes down to it, a math class is a math class and an English class is an English class.”
In BC, the aboriginal population represents 5.4 per cent of the total population. However, Jungic pointed out that at SFU, the aboriginal population represents just one per cent of the Faculty of Sciences and 0.8 per cent of the Faculty of Applied Sciences. This under representation of aboriginal students in applied sciences and sciences is one of many factors that led to the creation of this camp.
Jungic and the rest of the organizers of the Academic Camp for Aboriginal Students say their aim is not only to strengthen students’ understanding in math and English, but also to ignite a new interest in the students that will encourage them to continue into post-secondary education.
Jungic pointed out, “In my view it is not that aboriginal students should be enrolled in science, and applied science to be proportionately represented. It is a fact of life that without science and without applied science, you cannot become a doctor and you cannot become an accountant and you cannot become a lawyer, and that is why mathematics is so important.
“If the community is going to get these people involved in these careers than mathematics must be done.”