Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice Kicks Off with “absolutely great” session

On July 16, over 150 people attended an inaugural webinar organized by the Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice (CoP). It featured Veselin Jungic sharing his experiences collaborating with First Nations communities across British Columbia and Alberta to create an innovative, community-based program to engage First Nations children and youth in studying mathematics.

Who is Veselin Jungic?

Dr. Jungic, a mathematics professor from Simon Fraser University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellow and a recipient of several teaching awards including the Canadian Mathematical Society Teaching Award and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences Educational Award.

What is Math Catchers?

Beginning in 2011, Math Catchers is a program to interest Indigenous elementary and high school students in studying mathematics. Adopting Indigenous ways of knowing, Math Catchers uses storytelling, puzzles, pictures and a variety of hands-on activities to make math relevant and fun. Characters like Small Number and Big Circle are featured in a series of stories showcasing how math is everywhere, a vital part of everyday life.

What was the response to Dr. Jungic’s presentation?

This quote, taken directly from the session chat captures the feeling in the room. “Your presentation was very moving. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your heart and passion for this is clear.” Dr. Jungic’s passion for mathematics, his students and his role as an educator was inspiring and motivates us all to consider what more we can do to become Indigenous allies.

Key take-aways

Be patient! Veselin reminded us that when he started, he was “just another white man asking for something.” He advised us to take the time to build trusting relationships and understand the needs of the Indigenous communities we hope to work with.

Veselin also talked about how his work with First Nations peoples has made him a better teacher, more attuned to students and how their stories frame their learning.

What is the Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice?

Established just this year, the STEM Indigenization CoP aims to create a vehicle for sharing ideas of how to Indigenize courses, decolonize teaching practices, promote two-eyed seeing and engage meaningfully and respectfully with Indigenous communities.

What’s next?

The group will be hosting more sessions and hope to share helpful resources. If you have an idea for a speaker whose experience would benefit the group, just let any of the organizers know. They are: