Workshop Helps Teachers Bridge Science, Native American Cultures

Twenty-one science teachers from reservation schools in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington recently attended a weeklong workshop on "American Indians Bridging Cultures with Small-Scale Science" at Colorado State University.

The July 12-17 workshop was designed to provide a hands-on and culturally informed professional development opportunity for sixth- through 12th-grade Native American science teachers and teachers whose students are primarily Native American.

The teachers, 13 of whom are Native Americans, worked with Stephen Thompson, Colorado State professor of chemistry and associate director of the Colorado State Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education; and Frank Finley, chemistry instructor at Salish Kootenai Tribal College in Pablo, Mont., and a member of the Salish Kootenai Confederated Tribes.

As developed by Thompson, small-scale science encourages students to learn cooperatively and to take a holistic, "big picture" approach to science. Classroom and lab procedures use special workstations and equipment and emphasize economy, conservation and pollution prevention.

"Small-scale science offers a means to explore two world views of teaching, learning and doing science," said M.B. McAfee, program coordinator. Experiments are designed to minimize waste and encourage environmentally responsible approaches to science, she said. These attributes are strongly aligned with traditional Native American values of interconnectedness, community and conservation, McAfee said.

The workshop was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Hewlett-Packard of Fort Collins.