Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


GOCHIS, Emily E.1, GIERKE, John S.1, HUNGWE, Kedmon2, MAYER, Alex1 and MATTOX, Stephen R.3, (1)Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Dr, Houghton, MI 49931, (2)Cognitive and Learning Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, (3)Department of Geology, Grand Valley State Univ, Allendale, MI 49401-9403,

For centuries Native American cultures have had a unique understanding of the complexities of humans’ interactions with earth systems. This perspective is important to the geoscience field. However, Native Americans are historically underrepresented in geosciences degree programs and careers. The reasons for this lack of participation are complex and differ on case-by-case bases, yet are important to understand in order to employ strategies that will increase students’ interests in geosciences.

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.

  • Gochis_NativeAmericanInvolvementThroughInvestigations_GSA2013_final.pdf (2.0 MB)