Mainstream curricula have struggled to provide American Indian students with meaningful learning experiences. This research project studied a novel approach to engaging students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content through a culturally-based context. The traditional American Indian game of Snow Snakes (shushumeg in Ojibwe) presented a highly engaging context for delivering STEM content. Through the engaging context of snow snakes, the designed STEM curriculum explicitly applied mathematics (scaling and data), and science (force and motion) to an engineering prototype iteration that used available materials and tools (technology) for success. It was hypothesized that by engaging students through the carefully integrated STEM curriculum, driven by the culturally based context of snow snakes, students would exhibit an increase in science agency and achievement. The overarching research question explored for this study was: How does a culturally-based and integrated STEM curriculum impact student's science agency? Associated sub-questions were: 1) What does science agency look like for 6th grade students? 2) What key experiences are involved in the development of science agency through a culturally-based STEM curriculum context? And 3) What are the impacts on the community associated with the implementation of a culturally-based STEM curriculum?
A case study research design was implemented for this research. Yin (2003) defines a case study as investigating a phenomenon (e.g. science agency) which occurs within authentic contexts (e.g. snow snakes, Adventure Learning, and Eagle Soaring School) especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are unclear. For this case study Eagle Soaring School acted as the bounded case with students from the 6th grade class representing the embedded units. Science agency was the theoretical framework for data analysis. Major findings were categorized as science and STEM learning, agency, and community impact. Concerning agency, students displayed science agency through: connecting snow snake experiences to outside contexts; students emerging as leaders; and students commanding a facility with science. This research lays the foundation for future inquiry into the development of science agency in students using culturally-based contexts.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2010. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Gillian H. Roehrig. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 276 pages, appendices A-C.
Miller, Brant Gregory.
Snow snakes and science agency: empowering American Indian students through a culturally-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum..
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