Project Spotlight: Preparing Responsive Educators using Place-Based Authentic Research in Earth Systems (PREPARES)

Project Spotlight: Preparing Responsive Educators using Place-Based Authentic Research in Earth Systems (PREPARES)

Monday, March 20, 2017

STELAR had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Kathy Bertram of Alaska Pacific University, Principal Investigator for the Preparing Responsive Educators using Place-Based Authentic Research in Earth Systems (PREPARES) project. PREPARES works with indigenous middle school students from Alaska and Hawaii, engaging them in learning about place-based, culturally responsive climate changes of critical interest to their Elders, and about the STEM careers that give back to their communities. 

Can you share how your ITEST project impacts youth? 

In PREPARES, students from two different indigenous cultures collaborate with researchers from two vastly different parts of the United States to analyze climate changes in arctic and equatorial regions. Scientists from around the globe have converged in the nation’s northern- and southern-most states (Alaska and Hawaii) to observe and measure changes in climate that are significant and accelerating. PREPARES unites students with indigenous and “instrument-based” (university, federal, state) inter-agency climate researchers using a framework that presents a radically different approach for providing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. Mimicking instrument-based and indigenous climate research practices, Native students in Alaska and Hawaii analyze and share climate data unique to their locations, model potential future climate scenarios, and develop management plans for adapting to forecasted impacts. 

What excites you most about the work you do every day? 

Knowing that PREPARES is bridging the gap for students between instrument-based science and traditional ecological knowledge excites me most about the work I do every day. I also love to hear how engaged PREPARES students are, while sharing climate changes from two distinctly different places (Alaska and Hawaii) through the lenses of their two distinctly different indigenous cultures. 

What do you think is the most important learning in this area based on your project work to-date?  

The PREPARES framework is designed to provide professional development that helps middle school teachers of indigenous students learn to offer classroom instruction that is place-based, culturally responsive, and community relevant. 

A randomized controlled trial (with treatment and control group comparison) is being conducted this year. If results show that the PREPARES framework for providing classroom instruction is transferable among indigenous populations and places, then it has the potential to contribute to (or transform) the base of knowledge, theory, and research and/or pedagogical methods of the disciplinary field of STEM education and STEM education research, particularly as it relates to the classroom instruction of indigenous students attending public schools in the U.S. 

What is unique about your work? 

Working with instrument-based scientists and indigenous knowledge bearers (Alaska Native elders and Native Hawaiian kupuna) from two distinctly different climates and cultures makes PREPARES unique. The sharing of cultural practices and local ecological knowledge and the exchange of instrument-based data between arctic and equatorial regions makes PREPARES rewarding and exciting for everyone involved: students, teachers, and researchers. 

Read more about PREPARES by viewing their project profile.