Event aims to draw Indigenous students to math and science programs

Cultural and laboratory learning will come together next week to offer Indigenous high school students a glimpse into life at Brock University.

For the 10th year in a row, more than 40 Grade 9 to 12 students from Six Nations of the Grand River and other Indigenous communities will come to Brock for the Bridging our Worlds Through Science Aboriginal Outreach Program, which runs from Monday, May 6 to Wednesday, May 8.

The program, which runs over two days and two nights, aims to expose students to math and science through seven hands-on laboratory exercises and lectures by Indigenous traditionalists that incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing.

During one exercise, students will learn about the traditional and ecological importance of the strawberry in Haudenosaunee culture before heading into a teaching laboratory to gain first-hand experience extracting strawberry DNA.

Sandra Wong, Aboriginal Academic Support Program Co-ordinator/Instructor in Brock’s Aboriginal Student Services office, said the program functions as an introduction to the study of science and math at the post-secondary level.

“We use the camp as a recruitment and outreach activity to inform students about the sciences and math available at Brock,” she said. “But it’s also inclusive of Indigenous curriculum to show students their ways of knowing are valued.”

Thanks to a $10,000 backing from the Six Nations community, through the Science Education and Employment Development fund, students from Six Nations are able to attend free of charge, while the costs of other interested students are covered by the University.

Wong said the initiative allows students to experience not only classroom learning but also other portions of university life, such as recreational activities and living in a dormitory. It offers them the chance to see that the Brock community is a welcoming one.

“We want to bring them here and show them that university is not scary,” she said. “We want to gain their trust in us, because education has not always been a good part of history for Indigenous peoples.”

Thanks to complimentary sessions from Brock faculty members as well as leadership from Indigenous staff students and alumni, Wong says the program sets a positive example.

“The program addresses calls to action of truth and reconciliation,” she said. “It’s partnership in action with the Indigenous community and highlights important initiatives all institutions should to be doing. We want Brock to be a leader in that.”

To learn more about the Bridging our Worlds Through Science Aboriginal Outreach Program, visit ExperienceBU.

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