Earth Partnership: Community-Based Research into Tribal-School-University Partnerships that Deepen Indigenized STEM Teaching and Learning

Earth Partnership: Community-Based Research into Tribal-School-University Partnerships that Deepen Indigenized STEM Teaching and Learning


This Developing and Testing Innovations project addresses the need for greater Native representation in STEM education and STEM careers. This project will foster culturally sustaining learning for Indigenous youth in STEM by enhancing STEM education. Inter-Tribal, university and local school partners will collaborate to co-design an Indigenous environmental science curriculum and provide professional development and pedagogical support strategies for implementation in middle- and high-school classrooms and community settings. Tribal communities will guide university and school district partners in developing and testing place-based, technology-rich field experiences, that integrate Native language, ecological study, stewardship protocols, and seasonal practices. Using research-grade mobile technology tools learners will collect environmental data, test their hypotheses, and share across communities via digital Indigenous storytelling. In addition to developing, testing and implementing Indigenized environmental science curriculum, the team will study the partnership’s curriculum development process, roles, and key concepts to inform future Indigenous science curriculum co-development efforts. With co-funding by two NSF programs, this project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. Co-funding will further advance the Directorate of Geosciences’ (GEO) efforts related to the application of Traditional Ecological Knowledge to the geosciences. This project is the strategic next step in a series of NSF-funded projects that develop, test, refine, and study Indigenous Earth Science curriculum and pedagogical support for educators. The efficacy of processes, tools and activities of this project will be iteratively evaluated throughout the project. Concurrently, the project will explore larger questions about inter-Tribal, university and school district partnerships using community-based research methodology. Three research questions will guide this work. (1) What are the essential questions and key concepts that drive an effective Indigenized science curriculum? How can a curriculum value these broader questions while honoring and responding to the unique history, culture, language, and cosmology of each Native Nation? (2) What is the process for developing a collaborative, place-based curriculum in partnership with Tribal Leaders and community members, university staff, and middle and high school teachers? (3) What interconnected roles do tribal, university, and school partners play in enacting an Indigenized science curriculum? In what ways do/can curriculum developers leverage these various roles? What are the affordances and constraints of this collaboration? Data will include observations, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups with tribal leaders and community members, 180 youth and their family members from the Bad River, Red Cliff, Lac du Flambeau Bands of Ojibwe and Ho-Chunk Nation, and participating educators throughout the project. Findings will be disseminated to local, Native Nation, and National audiences. Multigenerational events will be used to disseminate project resources within local communities; findings will be shared with the eleven Ojibwe Native Nations and the twelve Native Nations in Wisconsin; and potentially relevant key concepts will be shared with other Native Nations to consider for adaptation. The project will widely disseminate processes for relationship-building and communications for co-developing Indigenized science curriculum to broadly engage and promote interest in STEM and STEM careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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2021 - 2024


University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI

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