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Board #58: Research in Optics for K-14 Teachers (ROKET): A Research Experience for Teachers in Native American Schools

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Allison Jane Huff-Lohmeier University of Arizona

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Dr. Huff-Lohmeier is the Education Director for a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, Center for Integrated Access Networks, at the University of Arizona where she also teaches Technical Communication in the College of Optical Sciences. Prior to this, Dr. Huff-Lohmeier worked with the United States Embassy Association in Lima Peru, Central Michigan University, University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Oklahoma. She grew up in the Republic of Panama, Canal Zone and attended Department of Defense Dependent schools for her early education foundation. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of West Florida, Master of Education in Instructional Psychology and Technology from the University of Oklahoma, and Doctorate of Health Education from A.T. Still University. She has lived in four different countries and traveled extensively before establishing her roots in Tucson, Arizona. Besides her husband and four children, her passion is in empowering others through education by developing strengths-based programs that increase persistence in school and college programs.

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Amee Jeanette Hennig University of Arizona

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Amee Hennig has her B.S. in physics and creative writing from the University of Arkansas as well as her M.A. in professional writing from Northern Arizona University. She oversees the education and outreach activities for the Center for Integrated Access Networks based out of the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. At the University of Arizona she manages a number of summer programs for Native American students and educators.

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Daniel Lamoreaux M.A. University of Arizona

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Daniel Lamoreaux is a current doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona's School Psychology program. While working as a graduate assistant for the education office of the Center for Integrated Access Networks, he was directly involved in the coordination and evaluation of the center's summer research programs for Native American students and teachers. His primary interests lie in the education of students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and in the effect of built space on school social and academic environments.

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) entitled Research in Optics for K-14 Teachers (ROKET) (#EEC-1300370 and #EEC-1009496) was a multidisciplinary RET in the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) at the University of Arizona (UA). ROKET supported 50 teachers from Native American schools in a 6-week summer research experience over a 7 year period in labs in the College of Optical Sciences and the College of Science. Applying theories of American Indian identity development to teacher development, the goal of this program was to increase cultural awareness in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) classroom curriculum and build professional mentoring relationships to transform Native American classrooms and pique the interests of Native American youth toward STEM careers. The ROKET program collaborated with the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) at the UA. For over thirty years, AILDI has lead efforts to document, revitalize, and promote indigenous languages, which improves articulation of mainstream science terms to the indigenous population. The collaboration between CIAN and AILDI represented a unique program for science educators working in Native American communities to apply STEM concepts through the lens of native language and culture and develop culturally competent STEM curriculum. In total, 289 applications were received for the ROKET program, with 50 participants selected from 42 different Native American schools across 12 different states. Some teachers were from the same school and a few participated in the program twice. Forty percent of the participants were Native Americans and 56% were females. Since the program, teachers have attended approximately 25 conferences, several with their students. Program deliverables included a research poster and two STEM lesson plans for their classroom – one with indigenous culture embedded into STEM concepts, and the other based their university research. Additionally, participants received $1500 toward classroom supplies to support the RET lesson plans. Outcomes include increased teacher confidence in performing research, improved laboratory skills, and greater understanding of STEM pedagogical development specifically geared toward Native American culture. Broader impacts of this program on Native American youth involve precollege partnerships developed between teachers and research mentors post-RET, such as student and faculty mentor visits to local participant classrooms at least once a year to support teachers with their RET research lesson plan; a nanophotonics afterschool club for 3rd graders; an afterschool STEM program bringing together precollege teachers, students, parents, and university students, an on-campus UA optics summer camp with an RET partner school; Frontiers for Young Minds project with CIAN and an RET participant’s students; STEM comic book development collaboration with an RET participant as illustrator; and RET STEM education contributions for dissemination on CIAN’s Photonics Hub, an online education clearinghouse. Lasting impacts such as these provide engaging academic experiences in STEM for Native American youth; improve teacher-student relationships; and bridge reservation schools, tribal communities, and the universities in the hopes of motivating Native American youth toward STEM careers.

Huff-Lohmeier, A. J., & Hennig, A. J., & Lamoreaux, D. (2017, June), Board #58: Research in Optics for K-14 Teachers (ROKET): A Research Experience for Teachers in Native American Schools Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27971

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