Project Spotlight: Building STEM Identity and Career Interests in Native American Students By Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Remote Sensing Technologies
In exploring the summer activies of ITEST projects, STELAR recently caught up with Karla Eitel of the University of Idaho, Prinicpal Investigator for the Building STEM Identity and Career Interests in Native American Students By Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Remote Sensing Technologies project.
How did your ITEST project impact youth this summer?
Our project exposed 40 Native and rural youth to careers in Fisheries, Forestry and Fire Management with the Nez Perce Tribe through hands-on field experiences using UAV technology as an organizing theme. Two Elders from the Nez Perce Tribe shared stories about the places where we were studying and helped youth to make connections between traditional knowledge and ways of knowing and the students’ current work. The youth also connected their cultural identities with their identities as scientists.
What strategies did you find most effective for engaging youth in a summer program?
Storytelling from the elders and the youth was a powerful strategy in our program. We also found that making the learning relevant to students’ culture (whether they were Native or non-Native youth) made a significant impact in helping youth make meaning of their experiences.
What lesson have you learned through your work with youth this summer? Any tips you can share with other ITEST projects?
Flexibility is really important! We planned a lot of activities and found that some (like storytelling with the elders) took longer than expected, but it was really an important part of the program and the students were responding to the activity so we changed the schedule to make more time for these things.
What excites you most about the work you do every day?
I love watching as students expand on their ideas about what it means to do science, and who does science. Blending traditional ways of knowing with modern UAV technology is an interesting challenge that our whole team is working on, and it is exciting to see the ways that youth make sense of this work.