Thompson Rivers University

Indigenous science camp returns to campus

August 8, 2023

Stretches and smiles for all who participated in an outdoor yoga class as part of the TRU Indigenous Summer Science Camp.

The long-running TRU Indigenous Summer Science Camp is back after a pandemic-related hiatus since 2019. Indigenous youth from as far away as Quesnel and Spences Bridge were welcomed to campus during the first week of August and became immersed in university life.

They stayed in dorms, toured buildings, participated in workshops, solved mysteries and made connections that will undoubtedly guide them to future opportunities.

Camp participant Anthony Green, 15, is from Simpcw First Nation near Barriere.

Camp participant Anthony Green, 15, is from Simpcw First Nation near Barriere. He enjoyed the interactive workshops and now has a better idea of what happens at a university campus.

“We take students through a journey exploring different sciences as a group. They make friends and find out the university experience is a positive one,” says Vernie Clement, associate director of the Office of Indigenous Education. “Education is important for all Indigenous students. It betters their lives – it betters their families’ lives. If they are inspired to go on to study and follow their dreams – that’s what is most important to me.”

TRU alum Sadie Lawrence attended Indigenous Summer Science Camp as a teen and credits that experience with inspiring her to attend university. She graduated in 2023 with a Bachelor of Natural Resource Science.

“It helped me envision myself at TRU. It helped me get comfortable with the idea that I could attend, as I didn’t think I was smart enough. The camp helped show me that anyone can go to school and that there is a lot of support available,” she says. “I think it is a vital and integral part of my journey to TRU as an Indigenous student. I think the camp should not only be continued, but utilized for all programs (trades, engineering, animal health, etc…) for Indigenous students.”

New Gold pitches in

This year’s camp was funded in part through New Gold’s Community Investment Program. The mining company contributed $2,500 and facilitated a speaking engagement by TRU alum Tyne Roberts, an environmental scientist at New Gold’s New Afton Mine. Roberts spoke to the group about choosing science as a career path so she could spend her days working outside, and about her position at the local mine, which involves tracking and reducing the mine’s environmental impacts, planning for reclamation and ensuring the company’s sustainability efforts go well beyond national standards.

New Gold community relations co-ordinator Renata Mrema says the company is excited to partner with TRU in support of Indigenous youth.

“New Gold values the opportunity to be a part of the TRU Indigenous Summer Science Camp. Investing in initiatives that focus on Indigenous youth aligns strongly with our values of people and communities, integrity and teamwork,” says Mrema. “Providing Indigenous youth with the opportunity to learn more about science-based careers creates pathways for our youth to decide what type of future they want to be a part of.”

Three young girls look at a diorama.

Camp participants (left to right) Sky Billy, Piper Minnabarriet and Alex Thomas investigate a miniature crime scene as part of a Geneskool workshop.

Over the course of the five-day camp, co-ordinator Emma McMillan planned a range of activities to engage, inspire, teach and entertain students. They learned about supports and services offered to Indigenous students, solved a murder mystery as part of a Geneskool workshop, toured various buildings on campus, visited the Secwépemc Museum, went swimming, took a yoga class, saw a movie at the theatre and more.

Tina Matthew, executive director Indigenous Education, says she is thrilled the camp is back on campus and hopes it continues well into the future.

“This camp is designed to create Indigenous student interest and curiosity in science, technology and health careers while providing culturally relevant hands-on experience related to STEM,” she says.

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