2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 8-2
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM


YOUNG, Robert S., Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723

Native Americans are poorly represented in all science, technology and engineering fields. This under-representation results from numerous cultural, economic, and historical factors. The Elwha Science Education Project (ESEP), initiated in 2007 and funded initially by the National Science Foundation, strives to construct a culturally-integrated and place-based geoscience education program for Native American young people through engagement of the entire tribal community. The ESEP has developed a unique approach to informal geoscience education, using the Elwha River Restoration Project as a centerpiece. Environmental restoration is an increasingly important goal for tribes. By integrating geoscience activities with community tradition and history, project stakeholders hope to show students the relevance of science to their day-to-day lives. The ESEP's strength lies in its participatory structure and unique network of partners, which include Olympic National Park; the non-profit, educational center Naturebridge; a geologist providing oversight and technical expertise; and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT). Lower Elwha tribal elders and educators share in all phases of the project, from planning and implementation to recruitment of students and discipline. The project works collaboratively with tribal scientists and cultural educators, along with science educators to develop curriculum and best practices for this group of students. Use of hands-on, place-based outdoor activities engage students and connect them with the science outside their back doors. Project evaluation results indicate that most (75% or more) students were highly engaged approximately 90% of the time during science instruction. Recruitment of students has been particularly successful, due to a high degree of community involvement. Preliminary evaluations of the ESEP's outcomes indicate success in improving the outlook of the tribe's youth towards the geosciences and science, in general. The project has also helped to raise the high school graduation rate for LEKT young people to record levels. Perhaps the greatest success of the project is the fact that funding has been secured to continue work for three years AFTER the NSF funding has ended and our tribal partners are now leading the project.