MAKING THE MOST OF PLACE-BASED INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION
Our next informal education program, manoomin, focused on a highly place-based research project on a topic developed in conjunction with the reservation. We hoped that this place-based focus on a culturally important natural resource, wild rice, will increase student motivation to graduate from high school, attend college and pursue STEM careers. Our scientific research program, overambitious in retrospect, was to investigate the past, present and future condition of wild rice on the reservation. Although we were unable to fully complete the research agenda over the course of the camps at the level we originally conceived, individual interviews by the external evaluator showed that students felt that they were actively involved in an ongoing research program and nearly all reported gaining self-confidence to pursue a career in science, and stated a desired to obtain a college degree. Moreover, the topic of wild rice is so central to the community’s identity that students felt that they were contributing to their community by doing this research. The actual scientific research program has now moved beyond the Manoomin Science Camps and is being conducted through a partnership that developed between researchers at Fond du Lac Resource Management Division (FDLRMD) and University of Minnesota (UMN). The trust that was built between the researchers has also resulted in FDLRMD requesting that UMN start a Professional Master’s Degree Program in Tribal Resource Management.
We are now embarking on a new informal education program, Niizho Bimaadiziwin (Walking in Two Worlds), to further test the idea that a program that involves collaborative partnership among tribal resource managers, local teachers and university researchers is a model that can be adopted easily by other tribes.