The Sharing Cycle of Science Learning: A Method to Connect College STEM Courses with Tribal Community Topics that Enhance Sovereignty


American Indian students are underrepresented in all science and engineering fields by almost 50%. At the same time, the fastest growing occupations for the past half century require knowledge of science and mathematics. To address the need for relevant science training, the “Framing the Chemistry Curriculum” project was created by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC), and Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC). These partners iteratively developed a model to increase the number of tribal college students taking an introductory chemistry course. Specifically, the goal was to create sustainable chemistry laboratory experiences at NICC and LPTC. Our hypothesis was that American Indian students will be more inclined to engage and persist in chemical education when lessons and laboratory activities are framed within the context of community-relevant topics because of their strong sense of kinship and place. Since these colleges have low enrollments, the project was assessed using mixed methods to learn about attitudes and engagement. The following four objectives were completed: (1) An Advisory Board of local scientifically-oriented stakeholders developed the frame’s tribal community topics; (2) Created a lab manual that connects these topics to chemistry content; (3) Developed a two-semester chemistry sequence, integrating lecture and laboratory experiences; and (4) Disseminated the method locally and regionally through workshops, outreach, and recruitment. The most common statement from the several dozen students who took the course is that it helped them understand why chemistry is important. NICC also hired a full-time science instructor to teach several chemistry courses.

Author Information
Mark Griep, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States
Beverly DeVore-Wedding, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States
Janyce Woodard, Little Priest Tribal College, United States
Hank Miller, Nebraska Indian Community College, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2019
Stream: Design

This paper is part of the IICEHawaii2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon