June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
14.288.1 - 14.288.14
Bridge Design on the Reservation: A Study of Curriculum Implementation with American Indian Youth Abstract
To promote engineering education with American Indian students in grades 5-8, a civil engineering focused curriculum was designed through collaboration among educators, researchers, and engineers. The curriculum was created to introduce American Indian youth to career opportunities in civil engineering, various civil engineering concepts, and the role of civil engineers in the technology driven 21st century. The emphasis of the curriculum is placed on structural engineering, which is a branch of civil engineering concerned with the design and structure of buildings, bridges, and roads. The curricular activities focused on one particular structure - bridges. Through the activities the students engaged in engineering, as well as science, mathematics, and technology.
Researchers have addressed various issues regarding the education for American Indian students1,2,3. School problems such as low enrollment and graduation rates, large percentage of absenteeism, suspension and expulsion, low achievement scores on math, science, and reading, and the high drop out rates are commonly associated with American Indian students’ education4. Several researchers have addressed the ways to improve the education of American Indian such as implementing culturally relevant curriculum3, applying Native American pedagogy5, and training teachers to meet the particular needs of American Indian students1. In addition to these, it has been addressed that parental involvement is a necessary factor for American Indian students’ achievement4. Thus, parents of American Indian students are highly encouraged to be involved in the education of their children.
American Indian students have different learning styles3. Their learning is environment dependent, and they think in more relational styles rather than in analytic styles3. In addition, they could not easily see the connection between the whole and its subcategories. As visual learners, American Indian students learn best by observing their parents or elders6. Preston suggests that using experiential learning and cooperative learning activities can improve these students’ problem solving abilities and can reduce their mathematics and science anxiety3. Furthermore, Preston points out that workshops, after school, and weekend or summer school opportunities that emphasize hands-on activities and applications to real life situations can improve American Indian students’ attitudes toward mathematics and science3. It is well documented that American Indian students demonstrate high interest and success as they participated in activity-based science programs7.
In this light, the innovative “Reach for the Sky (RFTS)” program at [removed for review] was developed as a summer and after school program to serve a specific group of American Indian youth – Anishinabe – who live on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The goal of the RFTS project is to make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines more culturally relevant to the Anishinabe youth. More information about the program can be found at [URL removed for review]. The program is a three year collaborative
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