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Educators Linked American Indian Culture with Science Education

NSF Award:

Big Sky Science Partnership  (Salish Kootenai College)

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Salish Kootenai College's Big Sky Science Partnership (BSSP), a collaboration between Montana State University, the University of Montana, 30 schools grade K-8 and consultants from the Crow, Flathead and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations, hosted a Culture Camp for K-8 teachers in Montana. The partnership, which endeavors to improve the science achievement of American Indian students, has brought together tribal representatives, scientists and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) faculty to focus on creating cultural teaching materials and methods.

The camp addressed the affect of educators' limited knowledge of American Indian culture on students. Over three days participants learned about indigenous science as it relates in particular to weather, climate and astronomy. Teachers had the opportunity to learn traditional skills from tribal elders, such as how the solar calendar is based on the sun's relative position to tipi poles, and how these traditional skills are relevant to indigenous science.

Overall, 50-plus teachers participated in quarterly classes that focused on topics such as Greenland glaciers, Mars exploration, paleoclimatology, weather and climate, and Crow astronomy. Their efforts resulted in an 11.7 percent rise in teacher scores on geosciences benchmark pre-/post-tests. Thirty teachers in the Big Sky partnership have since begun master's of science education with Montana State University and the University of Montana.

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"Big Sky Country" Montana
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