INCREASING NATIVE AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT IN GEOSCIENCE THROUGH INTERDISCIPLINARY COMMUNITY-BASED INVESTIGATIONS
School culture and curricula have a strong influence on students’ decisions for the future. Integrating Earth Science into public schools through place-based and culturally inclusive methods has potential for engaging students and increasing underrepresented populations’ participation in geosciences. However, many schools do not teach Earth Science content passed 8th grade and few educators have a firm background in geosciences. In addition, Earth Science is often taught in the absence of other STEM subjects despite its interdisciplinary nature.
At Nah Tah Wahsh Indian School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a pilot study has been implemented to understand the effect of integrating Earth Science concepts into existing programs, through interdisciplinary, community-based investigations, to increase Native American interests in geosciences.
Students explore Earth Science concepts centered on laboratory- and field-based investigations situated in the local watershed. Instructional strategies focus on inquiry-based holistic approaches to learning geosciences within the context of local culture and facilitating student communication of results to community members. Preliminary results of the mixed methods study show that this strategy leads to greater understanding of geoscience concepts, stronger community-school relationships, and greater awareness of geoscience careers.