Restoring Water, Culture, and Relationships: Using a Community Based Participatory Research Methodology for Engineering Education


Despite current educational reform, efforts to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education have failed to affect the number of STEM degrees awarded to American Indian students. In an effort to increase the number of American Indians in technical and leadership positions, local tribal communities are pursuing opportunities for their youth to connect with STEM education that is relevant to their community and honors the Tribe's values. Community engagement and support for education is a recommended approach to inspire and increase academic achievement in American Indian students. This approach is also critical to validate theoretical research, which recommends culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogies as a method for making STEM education more accessible to American Indian students however; empirical research on these practices is missing. A challenge with validation is that Tribal communities generally distrust the research process used to inform educational methods due to a history of abusive research practices.


This case study focuses on the first half of the grant, specifically the curriculum development and implementation for the first-year summer camp, and the  post-camp reflections. The following objectives guided this study, specifically to describe: 1) how the CBPR methodology is applied to develop and implement a culturally relevant STEM curriculum that emphasizes engineering, 2) the impact of the summer camp experience on student's knowledge and attitudes about STEM content, and 3) how the CBPR methodology is used to facilitate partnerships and relationships with the community. We address these objectives using multiple data sources and observations to define the case study activities. We then consider the impact of the camp on students by qualitatively assessing student camp surveys. Qualitative assessment of community data sources (i.e. reflections and surveys) guided the grant partners in evaluating the application of the CBPR methodology for building community relationships. These reflections are summarized as lessons learned and include plans for modifying the research approach to strengthen the partnership and support tribal youth.


Aimee S. Navickis-Brasch, Anne Liu Kern, Fritz Fiedler, Jillian Rae Cadwell, Laura Laumatia, Kathy Haynie, and Christine Meyer... presentation at the 121st ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, IN, June 2014.


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Conference proceeding
A. Navickis Brasch
A. Kern
F. Fiedler
J. Caldwell
L. Laumatia
K. Haynie
C. Meyer
American Society for Engineering Education
Cultural Relevance, Equity, and Diversity
Participant Recruitment and Retention
Partnerships and Collaboration
STEM Content and Standards
Youth Motivation and Interests in STEM
Publication Year
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - general