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2011 Annual Science Report

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Icy Worlds Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: Icy Worlds E/PO: Supplemental Funding to Support Native American Student Partnership

Project Progress

The Crow Education Project provides science enrichment activities for 10, 4th grade classrooms and professional development for their teachers in three schools located on and adjacent to the Crow Reservation in Southwestern Montana. A district wide program, this hybrid education model incorporates monthly hands-on science activities, field experiences, and video conferencing technology to share science discoveries from scientists and educators at Montana State University with Hardin Intermediate School and Crow Agency School students.

The project engages 4th grade students in inquiry-based science and exposes students to science as a career. The project offers outreach experiences to graduate students and early-career scientists, and provide curriculum–based activities and training for participating teachers. A core group of 11 teachers and ~ 200 kids participate each month. Forty seven teachers participated in professional development workshop in the fall of 2011.

Two research groups are involved in this project, The Yellowstone group is focused on ecology and geology in Yellowstone National Park; the Polar Science group focuses on science in the Arctic and Antarctic. Themes common to both groups are life in extreme environment and changing climate. Inquiry-based hands-on student activities in the classroom and the field are led by MSU outreach personnel, scientists, and graduate students, with the implicit goal of teaching the teachers through example. Culturally appropriate teaching and learning methods are being developed in partnership with the teachers, tribal members and university scientists.

Our outreach and education approach is three-pronged; (1) Monthly hands-on classroom activities led by MSU outreach personnel, scientists and graduate students. When appropriate, Native American MSU students are involved in outreach efforts. (2) Science field trips for students and teachers. Students and teachers visit the MSU Bozeman campus to experience science in a college context. Additional field trips include participation in Expedition Yellowstone!, a residential environmental 4-day program in Yellowstone National Park, and a geology focused field trip to Pictograph State Park. (3) Professional development opportunities for teachers in the school district and across the reservation at all grade levels.

Video conferencing allows us to connect with the teachers and students in order to physically demonstrate classroom activities from the MSU Bozeman campus, answer questions, and more formally assess progress. Native American students at MSU assist with programing so students can see Native Americans teaching science, and hopefully envision themselves in careers that use science.
In order to promote using “real” science data, a weather station has been purchased, seismometers have been set up in the classrooms, and water quality testing materials so the students will regularly collect “real” science data themselves which will tie into classroom activities.