Closing the Gap in Post-Secondary Education for Indigenous People

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Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn about their roots.

This important theme runs through Laurier’s Mama Aki: Mother Earth Science Camp, that members of Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF)’s team and Granting Committees had the opportunity to experience this summer. The overnight camp, developed by Laurier’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Faculty of Science, focuses on connecting topics from Ontario’s Grade 7 and 8 science and technology with indigenous knowledge. Children spend a week in the university’s classrooms and lab spaces, plus some field-trip adventures.

Along with camp participants, Laurier staff and camp volunteers, we participated in a smudging ceremony and camp leader Dr. Kathy Absolon led the group in a poem and traditional song about creation. In Indigenous culture, the term ‘creation’ refers to all of nature.  

“If there’s one thing to take away today,” Kathy said to the students, “It is that you are not alone. Sometimes when you’re young, you can feel very alone. But out here in creation, you are never alone.”

Following the introductions, we walked through Snyder’s Flats Conservation Area, and learned about plants and animals, drawing from a blend of Indigenous knowledge and Western scientific theory, which for Jessica Duke, Laurier’s Indigenous Students Recruitment and Outreach Officer, is crucial for these students. “We want these youth to know that their traditional knowledge is valued, and that they can share that in their classrooms,” said Jessica.

In addition to blending Indigenous knowledge with Western scientific theory, the camp also exposes camp participants to the university experience. “Summer camps give us an opportunity to bring Indigenous children to the university, helping them see themselves studying and succeeding in higher education,” says Jean Becker, senior advisor of Indigenous Initiatives at Laurier. “University outreach to Indigenous youth is critical to closing the gap in post-secondary education for Indigenous people.”

Mama Aki: Mother Earth Science Camp received support from the Waterloo Region Record – Lyle S. Hallman Foundation Kids to Camp Fund at KWCF, allowing the students to attend the camp at no cost to themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about the camp, or in providing support for kids attending camps across Waterloo Region contact Sarah Witmer at or 519-725-1806 ext. 206.

This story was featured in our September Update.