Project Profile

Voices to Hear (V2H): Native American Youth Learning About Environmental Sciences, Related Careers and Engaging Their Communities through Podcasts


This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Voices to Hear (V2H) will use the oral tradition of storytelling to empower Native American students (middle school, high school and college) to engage in environmental decision-making and scientific communication, while building a stronger sense of their ethnic identity. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe (CdAT), University of Idaho, and University of New Hampshire research alliance will recruit and work with middle school, high school, and undergraduate students from the CdAT Reservation in Idaho and other Tribal youth who attend University of Idaho, to develop high-quality audio documentaries focused on environmental decision-making processes. The production of a three- or five-minute high- quality audio documentary/podcast is a multilayered, labor-intensive process that emphasizes scientific inquiry, patience, and perseverance, ultimately requiring observation, data collection, analysis, and building a summary or conclusion. While podcasts resonate strongly with the oral storytelling traditions of native American youth, they also provide a mechanism for conducting scientific inquiry. The project focuses on students learning about how to merge different knowledge systems (Western- mainstream/dominant science perspective, and Indigenous traditional knowledge) in order to become effective environmental decision-makers in the future. By investigating how community members resolve local environmental problems, students will be mentored by traditional and professional experts, and learn to utilize both STEM and cultural perspectives to solve environmental issues. The project will develop and implement a unique, vertically integrated mentoring model where Native undergraduate students will be trained to mentor high school and middle school students, thereby helping middle school and high school students learn about pathways to college and other careers.

The V2H project will examine how people from Native American communities negotiate their Indigenous knowledge sources with Western science to make decisions in their everyday lives. The project grounds itself in research on how student's ethnic identity impacts their science learning and also decision-making capacity in their everyday life. Project research will employ a mixed-methods design. The project will address several research questions: (1) What complex systems thinking attributes do students demonstrate? (2) How do students merge or negotiate different knowledge systems (Indigenous and Western)? (3) How do the students ethnic identity change through both audio documentary making and mentoring? (4) What aspects of complex thinking and integrating knowledge systems improve students attitudes toward traditional and non-traditional STEM topics? Both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected and parallel data analysis will be implemented through the life of the project. In order to understand what complex thinking attributes students demonstrate, the project will employ a pre- and post- modeling activity, using Mental Modeler, software that allows individuals to define components of a system and show the interconnectedness between the components of that system. Project research and resources will be widely shared with educational researchers, educators, and Tribal communities.

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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Principal Investigator(s)
Co-Principal Investigator(s)
Primary Contact


Award Number
1759407, 1759355, 1852687
Project Duration
2018 - 2023
University of New Hampshire, .
University of Idaho, .
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
High school (9-12)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Environmental Science - general
Additional Target Participants
American Indian or Alaskan Native