Project Profile

A Culturally-Relevant Computer Science Education Program to Expand Equity, Access, and Opportunity for Native American High School Students


The underrepresentation of Native Americans in STEM and computing deprives the nation of its potential for innovation and transformative solutions that can arise from a diverse STEM workforce. Studying the educational differences between Native American and non-Native American learners will increase the understanding of how to reduce inequity and improve educational and economic outcomes for Native American students, families, and communities. To achieve these objectives, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Kapor Center will study the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science courses for Native American high school students with emphasis on how to best support Native girls’ advancement to careers in computational STEM fields. The project will provide curricula, training, and support for in-school and out-of-school computer science education.  These interventions are designed to expand equity, access, and opportunity for students to increase knowledge and interest in computer science, and afford pathways to higher education and careers in computing and computational STEM fields. The project team will engage a highly diverse set of partners and Native community members to participate in development and implementation of the project’s activities and deliverables. This project is funded by 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. The project will engage 1,824 Native American students and 28 educators. Findings will inform replication of the program as a model computer science for high schools with predominately Native American students. Research and program coordination will be conducted by researchers with extensive experience in computing education in Native communities. The research will have a quasi-experimental design. Baseline data collected at the beginning of each course will be compared with post-intervention data to examine the relationship between the intervention and student outcomes. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected using surveys, course data, transcripts, interviews, and focus groups. Methods include surveys and sharing circles, which will be conducted with girls and boys separately. The sharing circles will seek to determine similarities and differences in how respective genders in Native communities experience cultural activities introduced during the project’s activities. Research questions include: (1) What is the impact of culturally relevant, female-focused computer science courses on increasing the entry, persistence, and success (i.e., knowledge gained) in computing of Native American students in general and Native female youth, specifically?; and (2) What program components are essential to increase Native American females’ computer science aspirations, engagement, self-efficacy, resilience, and social and emotional learning? The project will contribute to the literature by studying existing structural, psychological, and social barriers for Native students in computing education and the efficacy of rigorous, culturally relevant, and intersectional computing courses and out-of-school college and career readiness activities. 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)


Award Number
Project Duration
2021 - 2025
American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Albuquerque, NM
Project Work State
Project Status