Aaron Arquette caught the attention of about 40 visitors in the Yakama Nation Cultural Center auditorium Thursday when he discussed his work on solar water heaters.

A senior at the Yakama Nation Tribal School, Arquette explained how solar evacuated tubes warm up water for residential use; as a result, solar water heaters tend to save customers money on energy bills.

School Principal Relyn Strom was quick to note how Arquette was already involved in an ambitious project to install solar water heaters in dozens of homes.

Arquette’s project was one example members of the Yakama Nation used to convey their students’ love for science, technology, engineering and math to educators from across the state. The educators visited the Toppenish center as part of a three-day bus tour of several STEM initiatives in Washington.

“STEM is in service to this community,” said Elese Washines, a Heritage University assistant professor.

The bus tour, organized by the nonprofit Washington STEM, began in Vancouver on Wednesday, then moved east to the Yakima Valley on Thursday and will conclude in Spokane today.

Groups and companies represented included the University of Washington, Walla Walla School District, Pacific Science Center and Expedia.

Stopping in the Yakima Valley made sense, as the schools represent a wide swath of communities — rural, Latino and Native American, among others.

To read the article on the Yamika Herald, click here.

An excerpt:

Today, the White House will bring together tribal leaders from federally recognized tribes to participate in the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. The President and members of his Cabinet will discuss issues of importance to tribal leaders, with an emphasis on ways the Administration can continue to make progress on improving the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure these gains continue in future Administrations. In addition, 24 youth delegates will participate in the Conference to share their unique perspective.

The White House Tribal Nations Conference builds on the President’s travel this year to Alaska and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. During his recent visit to Alaska, the President met with tribal and community leaders in Anchorage to discuss ways tostrengthen cooperation between the federal government and Alaska Native tribes, and announced the restoration of the Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali to the tallest mountain in North America, previously known as Mt. McKinley. The President also visited tribal communities in Dillingham and Kotzebue, where he announced new investments to combat climate change and assist remote tribal communities.

In July, the President traveled to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma where he launchedConnectHome, an initiative designed to make high-speed Internet more affordable to residents in low-income housing units across the country.

Under the President’s leadership, his Administration committed to improving coordination across the federal government to promote strategic and efficient programming for Indian Country. Through the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the Administration is reinforcing the message that the federal trust responsibility is held by the entire federal government. With this all-of-government approach, the Administration is developing cross-agency partnerships to promote information sharing and better leverage existing programs to promote meaningful outcomes for Indian Country.

Throughout the year, Native youth remained at the forefront of the Administration’s effort to fulfill our promises to tribal nations. The launch of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative last December is a recognition that tribal communities thrive when their youth are safe and healthy, have access to a quality education, housing, and meaningful job opportunities, and can learn their native languages and cultures. In July, the White House hosted the first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering, bringing together over 1,000 Native youth representing 230 tribes from 42 states to engage with the Administration on these issues.

To read the entire press release, click here.

An excerpt:

Eleven high school students and one recent college grad from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota are looking at homes in their community from a new perspective following their month-long participation in the Sustainable Building Research Experience and Mentoring program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This STEM outreach program, funded by the National Science Foundation and the university, is headed up by John Zhai, a professor and researcher on building systems engineering at CU-Boulder. The program grew out of his work developing new, more efficient, sustainable building materials for houses.

Over the past three years Zhai and his colleagues have worked with 36 students and seven teachers from tribal communities, giving them hands-on experiences that included, this year, building a straw bale wall, making air quality monitors to identify mold in homes, doing energy audits, getting a taste of life on a university campus and having the opportunity to meet American Indian professionals in STEM fields.

The first week students stayed on campus where they went to seminars, met with faculty and were introduced to college-level research. “We pushed them to do research with an emphasis on doing things correctly, following protocols and being thorough,” Wyatt Champion, CU-Boulder graduate student and lead instructor for the program, said.

Bobbie Knispel, a teacher from Todd County High School who accompanied the students, said, “The program was a great tool for giving them a sense of what college life might be like.”

For the second week, students traveled to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana where they did energy audits under the instruction of Leo Campbell, Winnebago, a certified building analyst with the Building Performance Institute, and checked for mold in eight homes.

Champion says one of the best parts of the program was that “we were able to give back to the community by giving each home a report about how they could save energy by making simple repairs, and if their home was moldy, specifically which room and how they could fix that.”

Students then took their new skills back to their own reservation to look at housing conditions there and to do energy audits. Zhai said conserving energy is critical on reservations. “Residents don’t have to pay the construction costs for their homes, but they do have to pay the utility costs. In the past we have found utilities could be a significant expense, as much as one-quarter or one-third of a family’s income. If we can reduce utility costs, it would be a huge benefit to the tribal community.”

To read the entire article, click here.

An excerpt:

Chris Cultee will have a close-up view when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies past Pluto on Tuesday.

Cultee, who attends the Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation near Bellingham, is an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center this summer. He tweeted Monday about his experiences at @NASASunEarth with the hash tag #RaceOnTech.

He got into rocketry through his college’s Space Center — it was named by one of the students as sort of a joke, although it has become anything but that, with guidance from computer science teacher Gary Brand and attention from NASA.

This is Cultee’s third year as a NASA intern.

To read the entire article, click here.

An excerpt:

When NASA sent Commander John Herrington (Chickasaw Nation) to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Endeavour in 2002, space not only got the first enrolled Native American, but also its first Native American flute payload.

“I played ‘Amazing Grace’ on board the ISS while my crewmate, Don Pettit, used a vacuum cleaner hose to simulate an aboriginal didgeridoo, which he actually brought onboard; he just had not unpacked it yet,” Herrington told Indian Country Today Media Network in a recent interview. “The Native American flute I flew on my mission, a black-lacquered river cane flute, was made by a Cherokee friend, Jim Gilliland.”

Herrington retired from NASA in 2005. He enjoys seeking new challenges, and last year earned his PhD in education from the University of Idaho.

His dissertation research focused on the motivation and engagement of Native students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields who had attended a NASA summer program. Native American and Alaskan Natives earned just 0.6 percent of master’s degrees in science and engineering in 2009, according to the National Science Foundation—a dismal statistic that highlights the importance of his research and of his motivation to study different approaches to engage Native students in STEM education.

“I wanted to look at the results of tests they took before and after that summer program,” he said. “I did a case study three years later where I actually interviewed those students to really find out the factors that motivated and engaged them in NASA math and science based on that summer program. I analyzed the pre- and post-tests they took, and I had the students tell me the stories of their experience.

“It was interesting because it supports the literature that I’ve read, but there’s not a lot out there on the factors that motivate Native youth in the STEM subjects,” Herrington continued. “The results of my research indicated that Native students become engaged and motivated through hands-on experiential, non-competitive, collaborative learning. They like to work in groups, they like to build stuff, they like to personalize their work and see the practicality in what they’re learning related to the theory.”

“There is a wonderful story to be told about how successful Native American STEM students and professionals have been able to accomplish the difficult work that a STEM profession entails,” Herrington said. “The next generation of students needs to be aware of the factors that made their predecessors successful in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

To read the entire article, click here.

 

Author Marissa Spang cover the issue of “Indigenous ways of knowing are often perceived to be contrary to STEM learning, but they are in fact powerful resources for learning. STEM instruction should be made inclusive for Indigenous students by building connections between Indigenous and Western STEM. There are a set of strategies teachers can use to intentionally incorporate indigenous ways of knowing into STEM learning environments—both in and out of school and in relation to family and community.”

Why It Matters To You

  • Teachers should focus on Indigenous ways of knowing & encourage Indigenous students to navigate between Indigenous & Western STEM.
  • District staff and PD providers should build relationships with Indigenous communities they serve and focus PD on Indigenous STEM, including relations to land.
  • School leaders need to recognize what it looks like for Indigenous students to learn western & Indigenous STEM and ensure approaches are adopted.

Things to Think About

  • How can you change your instruction to “center” it on Indigenous ways of knowing?
  • Who are partners (parents, teachers, systems leaders, students, organizations) that can help you center Indigenous ways of knowing? How can they help your students navigate multiple ways of knowing?
  • Where are some places you can take students to strengthen their connections to their territories and localize knowledge and learning?

To view the entire article, click here.