The camps, which are organised by the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Maths Alliance (ATSIMA), started running in 2015.
AECG president Cindy Berwick says that the camps are now so popular that they are often forced to run twice in a row to meet demand.
“We’ve actually got so much interest that we don’t advertise them any more to be honest, we only just put them up on the Facebook page and website and ... they seem to fill up very quickly,” she says.
ATSIMA chair Chris Matthews says that many students attend two, or even three times.
“A lot of the time the students I think are just really happy to be involved with a group of Aboriginal kids, because I don’t think that happens very often on a bigger scale,” he says.
On the camps, students learn about maths and science through the lens of Aboriginal culture.
“They do maths and storytelling, algebra through storytelling, so they actually tell stories and they do corroboree equations where they use different symbols to actually understand equations,” Berwick explains.
“They do music and maths, where it’s about the beats to the music and all the rest of it, and one of the kids piped up and said ‘I understand equivalent fractions now’...
“They do kinship around division and the stolen generation, they actually talk about that, about dividing people and what division is all about.”
As much as the camps are about STEM education, they are also a vehicle to get kids connected with their cultural identity.
Berwick says that parents have reported their kids coming back with greater respect for themselves and their culture.
“One of the kids that I spoke to, I said ‘did it inspire you in maths and science?’ ... and she said ‘look I’m already interested in maths and science’, so it did a little bit, but she said ‘what it did do for me is made me prouder to be Aboriginal’,” she says.
Matthews says that he wants kids to understand that Aboriginal people have made great contributions to the STEM fields.
“Really the underlying thing is connecting with culture,” he says.
“And also from that, the kids see that they’re not disconnected from this, that we belong in this space.”
Matthews says that education in Australia comes from one cultural perspective.
“The fact that in our country there’s still Aboriginal kids who grew up speaking their own language and actually speak many other Aboriginal languages before English, but as soon as they hit school they have to just speak English, it doesn’t make too much sense. There’s no other country in the world that would impose that on a kid,” he says.
“I’ve been working with the Yirrkala community in Arnhem Land and one of the Yolngu teachers actually said it’s a crime, that’s the way they see it, it’s a crime to do that because it actually puts a lot of stress on the children and they wonder why they walk out and don’t want to engage, you know...
“Aboriginal culture’s not been valued within the education system, what we’re trying to do is turn that around.”