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Using Engineering Design Tasks to Create Indigenous Cultural and Community Connections with the Classroom for Elementary and Middle School Students (WIP, Diversity)

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Frank Bowman University of North Dakota

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Dr. Frank Bowman is the Thomas C. Owens Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering, Associate Professor, and Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of North Dakota. He holds a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology and a B.S. from Brigham Young University, both in chemical engineering. His research interests include atmospheric aerosols, assessment of student learning, and K-12 STEM education

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Bethany Klemetsrud

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Beth grew up in Devils Lake and on the White Earth Nation. Klemetsrud, who teaches unit operations, ethics, and lab classes, conducts research in renewable energy, broadening participation, and sustainability assessment. She is currently an assistant professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of North Dakota

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Emine Ozturk

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Julie Robinson University of North Dakota

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Oftentimes engineering design tasks are thought of as acultural and devoid of community inclusion and values. However, engineering design is inherently a cultural endeavor. Problems needing engineering solutions or design thinking are situated in a specific community and need community solutions. This work in progress paper describes initial efforts from a project to help elementary and middle school teachers create culturally relevant engineering design tasks for implementation in their classrooms.

To integrate best practices for culturally relevant pedagogy, the engineering design framework developed by UTeach Engineering was adapted to specifically address community needs and cultural values. Changes to the framework also include culturally relevant instructional strategies for classroom implementation. To situate the engineering design steps within a culturally relevant framework questions involving communities and students’ cultural needs, values, and expectations were posed in each stage of the design process. A water filtration engineering design task was situated in the cultural concept of “Mni Wiconi” (Water is life in the Dakota language). This was taught in a summer professional development workshop for a cohort of elementary and middle school teachers, in rural North Dakota, with school districts comprised of large Native American student populations. Teachers adapted this design task for their individual classrooms and content areas (science, math, social studies, ELA) and implemented it in their classrooms in the fall of 2021.

Additional support for teachers was provided with fall workshop days aimed at helping them with the facilitation of a culturally relevant engineering task. To integrate culturally relevant teaching and good engineering design tasks, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s Native American Essential Understandings Teachings of our Elder’s website was used. This allowed teachers and students to have firsthand knowledge of how various science and engineering concepts are framed within the indigenous community. Professional development focused on how to situate culturally responsive teaching in engineering design. For example, in one of the school districts the water filtration task was related to increased pollution of a nearby lake which holds significant importance for the local Tribal Nation. In addition to being able to visibly witness the demand for cleaner water, the book “We are Water Protectors” written by Carole Lindstrom, was used to provide cultural grounding for the Identify and Describe stages of the engineering design framework.

Case studies of how teachers incorporated the water filtration design task into their lesson plans are presented along with their suggestions on how to improve classroom implementation. Future work in the program includes teachers and their students developing engineering design tasks situated in their own communities and cultures.

Bowman, F., & Klemetsrud, B., & Ozturk, E., & Robinson, J. (2022, August), Using Engineering Design Tasks to Create Indigenous Cultural and Community Connections with the Classroom for Elementary and Middle School Students (WIP, Diversity) Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--41076

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