Heritage, technology bridged at U camp

Josh Linehan

For this week at least, the St. Paul campus was the center of the universe for a group of teens.
Native American teenagers from around the country plotted graphs of their homes, using the University as the focal point that connected all of the locations together. This is just one of the projects kids completed while attending the ninth annual American Indian Summer Math and Science Camp.
The camp, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs, and affiliated with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, is an attempt to bridge the gap between math, science, computer literacy and Native American cultural heritage.
“The purpose of the camp is to help students understand that math and science are a part of their everyday world, both in dominant culture and in native culture,” said camp coordinator Laura Pawlacyk of the American Indian Learning Resource Center.
“We’re trying to equip our future leaders with the tools of tomorrow that will complement knowledge from the past,” said instructor Jim Rock.
Rock, a science teacher from Wayzata High School, along with Ben Blackhawk, a math teacher from St. Paul Academy, have attempted to show the 20 campers there is no need for conflict between their tribal heritage and today’s technology-driven world.
For example, the students learned to record data on ancient Incan string graphs using different colors and knots. Rock compared this method to using an early floppy disk.
Along with intense math and science instruction, and cultural lessons, the campers had an opportunity to participate in a wide range of outside activities. The students took trips to the Mall of America and Valleyfair, and also visited the site of the Highway 55 renovation.
Jeremiah Carlson, an Ojibwe-Dakota camp student from Wyoming, Minn., said he enjoyed the outside activities as well as the classroom instruction. He also thought the camp was a good experience for young students thinking of attending college.
“It was helpful to get used to a college routine; eating only at certain times, seeing the campus and living in the dorms. It definitely would encourage me to attend the U,” said Carlson.
Pawlacyk agreed that student lodging in Bailey Hall and tours of the University were important elements of the camp.
“The exposure to college is helpful to younger students, and it will hopefully encourage them to continue their education past high school,” said Pawlacyk.
The camp also aims to prepare the students, who will be entering ninth grade in the fall, for the math and science courses they will be required to take later on.
“It will hopefully be a good jump-start for my math and science classes in high school and help me prepare for college,” said Stephanie Peterson, an Ojibwe from Chicago.