Culturally Relevant Science
Living in an Inupiaq village for the past six years has given me a greater insight into the diversity of ways of thinking and knowing. To teach the processes of science we try to model the step by step plan using the scientific method. Our local experts and elders view things in a larger picture. I found that to have a culturally relevant science classroom that it is important to look at science problems from many angles both through the western thinking and native knowledge.
This year Wales Kingikmiut School has begun a journey toward standards based education. The Bering Strait School District has adopted cultural standards as well as science standards. I find these standards a good guide in getting the local knowledge into the classroom. Another great resource is the Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum that was published by the Alaska Science Consortium and The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. It is in fact this publication that helped me to get started and also the help of my OLCG instructors who are supportive.
All our students can benefit from elders visiting the classroom. In Wales, grandparents are held in high regard because they have a wealth of knowledge and experience. When I can get an elder to visit my classroom I find I have begun to bridge the gap between traditional native knowledge and western science. When the elder speaks about the changes in the local environments over the past years, he or she is listened to with trust and respect where my local observations may be seen with a little skepticism because I see things from a western educated view. When the elder and teacher discuss students can begin to see the common ground between the two ways of knowing. Students join in with questions and comments to make the experience complete.
At the beginning of the year I sent out an invitation letter to elders and local experts to come to school and spend time with students. I sent out a list of topics I would like to cover such as snow machine safety, winter survival, weather warning signs and many other topics that could be addressed by local experts. I have had elders, a reindeer herder, and visiting scientists come to the classroom. The students wrote journal articles on the visits. We will follow up with research on topics about local winds and weather, hypothermia and winter safety, and students will continue to take daily weather reports and cloud observations and report them to the GLOBE website.
Wales is a GLOBE school participating since August 2002. This Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment is an excellent program to allow Wales students to connect to the global picture. They have already been getting GLOBE mail from a school in Germany.
My future plans are to continue to have elders in the classroom whenever possible. I will connect the GLOBE protocols, invite our local experts and do an investigation similar to the one authored by Elder Jonas Ramoth and Sidney Stephens. This model will be integrated into the Traditional Weather Forecasting Unit authored by Maggie Ferry and published by the Bering Strait School District.
Students build emergency shelters during outdoor wilderness class.
For more information
take a look at the Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science
and its site on the ANKN network which is: http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/handbook.pdf
The Challenger Center of Alaska and the Alaska Science Consortium held the first annual Summer Institute for Teachers at the CLCA in Kenai from August 5 -9, 2002. Nine people attended including two who were ASC members. The weeklong institute presented activities on the topic of motion. The focus of the institute was to provide the participants with hands-on science activities that included the process skills, to enable them to teach these activities in class, and to provide materials to each teacher to take back and use in his/her own classroom.
Special presenters included Gregory, Aerospace Education Specialist and Associate Professor, Colorado State University, and the Glenn Research Center. Other instructors included Rob Carillo of the CLCA and Diane McBee of the ASC.
Teachers constructed rocket launchers, designed rockets, and built robots. They participated in a Robotics Video Conference. Discovery based activities on the motion of the earth and moon allowed teachers to take home a variety of activities to share with students. As a conclusion, the teachers learned about Mars City Alpha and flew on the CLCA simulated mission Voyage to Mars. Teachers took home more that $700 in science materials to use in their classrooms.
The class was funded by 3 different grants: $5000 from a physicianÕs group, $5000 from the Alaska Space Grant, and $5000 from a private corporation. The ASC offered additional support to the ASC member participants.
The CLCA and ASC planned to offer another Summer Institute for Teachers in 2003.
Students practiced their thinking skills during the project by figuring out procedures for problems such as how to weigh a live fry when it won’t stand on a scale, and how to find the length when fry won’t hold still. They had to solve math problems such as how much does one fry weigh if 5 fry weigh 4.6 grams. Students also learned the order of operations while solving equations to determine the amount of ammonia present in the tank. Such activities required students to use a triple beam balance, calculators, tables, and rulers to a tenth of a centimeter.
The knowledge gained from the first hand experiences improved the students’ understanding of the salmon life cycle, increased their awareness of the environmental needs of salmon, and aided their understanding of how human activities involving water resources can affect salmon. In addition to science and math the project also helped improve reading and writing skills. An equally important, though unplanned, benefit was the increase in pride and self-esteem of the students as they helped care for and watch their salmon grow. May 7 was a day of excitement and mixed emotions as the students watched their fry school up and head out to sea.
The gear-up is right there in the light box, a colony of Peris rapa (cabbage white butterflies) caterpillars crawling around on green leaves. I am sitting a classroom in at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Paul Williams (the Fast Plants/ Bottle Biology guy) is introducing a group of teachers to this cool green caterpillar. The question is can Peris really tell one green leafy vegetable from another.
After attending the workshop in December my wife and I brought back 2 deli tubs with about 100 caterpillars. Since then we have shared the joy of raising and learning about the Peris rapa with students in my classroom and with teachers around Anchorage.
The Peris rapa is common through out the lower 48 and is also seen in South-central Alaska in the summer. They are the solid yellow butterflies with the black dots their wings. The larva feed on a variety of members of Brassica family (including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts). These hardy insects can be raised in the classroom in light boxes. The larva feed on cabbage. The adults feed on sugar water or hummingbird nectar. Mating will take place in the light boxes and the females will lay their eggs on cabbage leaves or you can sprout broccoli seeds in tubs for the eggs to be laid on.
So back to the question “Does Peris know”. We start with the question can the caterpillars tell the difference between green leafy foods. Working with my six graders we talk about what we have observed about the eating behavior of the caterpillars. Each pair of students cuts a 1 centimeter square from 2 different vegetable leaves, one brassica and one none brassica. The leaf from sample one has a small hole poked through it with a pencil, the other sample is left whole. Both samples are placed in a clear film canister and then we watch. After an hour or so the brassica leaf will be gone and the other leaf will be untouched.
After we have determined that Peris really does know the difference between brassicas and non-brassica’s we can explore other behavior of the Peris larva and adult. You can set up a petri dish salad bar with a variety of know brassica and non-brassicas to see if there is a preference for certain brassicas. With the adults you can explore color preferences for feeding by coloring your sugar water and watching feeding behavior. You can set out nurseries with different brassica sprouts and do egg counts and see if there are preferences.
If you are interested in finding out more I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by LKSD Staff and Students
This is just one of the many sites that students entering the 7th grade from various villages of LKSD had the chance to see while participating in a program called The Alaska Roadside Science. This is a two-week tour around the state of Alaska, observing and interacting with each of the four ecosystems: wetland tundra, interior boreal forest, alpine tundra, and coastal rainforest. The students meet with scientists in various settings and investigate many different careers open to scientists in Alaska. They travel throughout the state in rented vans and camp at state campgrounds for a majority of the trip. The trip is documented with video footage, digital pictures and daily sketches and notes taken by the students.
March 2002 News
by Diane McBee
The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska (CLCA) and the Alaska Science Consortium are partnering to sponsor the first annual week long special topic institute this summer to be held at the CLCA in Kenai. Twenty-four elementary and middle school teachers from across the state are invited to attend this high quality, hands-on, discovery based science workshop.
Participants will explore Newton's Laws of Motion, design and build rockets, create and program robots, and explore the motion of the shadows, the sun, and the moon. They will also explore how the CLCA uses simulated space missions to inspire and explore careers in the areas of math, science, and technology. Participants will also investigate how Mars compares to Earth. The institute is capped off as the participants Voyage to Mars on a simulated space mission of their own.
Dr. Gregory Vogt, Aerospace Education Specialist with the NASA Johnson Space Center will be the special speaker. He brings a vast knowledge of space and hands-on science activities to the institute. In addition, there will be a videoconference with the Glenn Research Center on the topic "The World of Robots."
Teachers will be involved in physical and space science discovery based lessons that they can take back to the classroom to do with their own students. Each participant will leave the institute with over $700 in materials.
To register for the class or get more information, please contact the CLCA at 262-2000, or e-mail Jamie Meyers at email@example.com.
February 2002 News
Imaginarium Science Discovery Center Visits Southwest Region School District
By Jane Whaling, ECE Specialist
Much to the absolute delight of the students in Clarks Point, Portage Creek, Twin Hills, and Togiak the Imaginarium's Shawn Jones put on several terrific classes and assemblies. The traveling hands-on, inquiry-based program visited the Southwest Region schools during the week of February 4th.
Classes were held for groups of 30 or less students. Many students were completely involved in one of the three different topics: Bugs are Da Bomb! (bug study), Science Potions (chemistry), and You've Got Guts! (Invertebrate study and squid dissection). Students were amazed by the diversity of live bugs and other creepy crawlies. There was even a very cool scorpion! Mixing potions and dissecting squids was also very popular with the older students. In Togiak the students and community put on an evening potluck dinner, complete with boiled squid.
Along with the students and staff of Togiak there was a huge community turnout for the "Radical Reactions" show, an assembly that had plenty of explosions and fire which kept the audience clapping and screaming.
The Imaginarium has put together a great way for rural students and communities to experience aspects of science that ordinarily aren't available to rural teachers. Teachers were given follow-up activities to do in their classrooms in order to extend the learning. What a wonderful way to get students excited about the world of science!
To schedule a Science Caravan visit at your school contact Shawn Jones at the Imaginarium 276-3179 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 2002 News
Tired of the winter winds? Why not put them to use? Set up a wind generator and produce some energy.
I live in a small Inupiat Eskimo village called Brevig Mission. If you have ever heard of the village I bet part of your conversation ended up talking about how it blows here. The formation of the mountains to the north of the village make a natural wind tunnel. Last week the wind was blowing 50mph straight up for a day and a half. My wife and I live about 20yds from the school. Several times throughout the year we have storms were we can’t see the school. Total whiteout! I got to thinking, this sounds like a great way to teach some science and math standards. Why not harness some of this energy, attach it to a greenhouse and eat some fresh vegetables. In the arctic no less.
I ran into a friend and fellow teacher in our district while teaching in Shishmaref. Her name is Cheryl Pratt. She said, “Why not write a grant to fund a greenhouse.” I said “great idea.” I need to admit that she did most of the work on the grant proposal. Before you know it we have the money to build a greenhouse. The greenhouse was built by the school small buildings shop class.
Question-Why not set up a wind generator to help heat and light a greenhouse? So last year I decided to give the grant writing another try. All they can say is “no.” It never hurts to ask. Off to the internet looking for which generator to buy. How many watts? What kind of batteries? How about wiring? Well, after getting a bunch of wires, batteries and other gizmos and gadgets it sounds like I will need some more stuff. Oh, well. I am learning. Isn’t this what education is all about?
Problem-No greenhouse. The plan was to get the greenhouse barged to Brevig Mission. It is not here yet. Mentioning this to my principal she said, “Hey, we have some money yet, why not build another one?” How awesome! So the plan is to order materials to build a 4’ x 12’ greenhouse and possibly build on in the future. I have been working with my Level 6 math and junior high science students with the building plans. Great way to teach fractions. This was also a great place to hit some of the science process skills-estimating, measuring, communicating and observing.
I have been interested in solar energy for years. My background in electricity has a lot to be desired. One of the reasons I wanted to wrote this grant was to learn more about electricity so I can do a better job of teaching it. I also know that in order for the generator to work properly and keep myself from being electrocuted, I will need lots of help. Thankfully I have a couple of friends here in Brevig who are not electrically challenged like myself.
If you have an idea that is kind of unique, relevant to the area you live in and will help to teach some of the Alaska State Science Standards, give grant writing a try. The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation website is www.astf.org.
I can’t wait to crunch into that first radish.
December 2001 News
Fairbanks is hosting a plethora of institutes this summer! The Alaska Science Consortium's summer institute will meet two weeks, June10-21. This institute will address primary, intermediate and secondary curriculum and process with hands-on science practice. Applications for teacher leaders and interns will be available online.
The Alaska State Writing Consortium is offering a summer institute at the same time in Fairbanks. Both the science and writing institutes will follow Vickey Spandell's 6-trait writing workshop June 6-8 in Fairbanks. Fairbanks sees this multi-workshop approach as an opportunity for varied disciplines to focus on process learning.
Advanced ASC institutes will be held August 5-9 at the Challenger Center in Kenai. The math/science connections institute will be held July 29-Aug 1 in Valdez. More information about these institutes will be available in the up-coming months.
November 2001 News
The ASC Annual
Board meeting was held on October 17-18th, 2001 at the Sheraton Hotel
in Anchorage with many member districts sending teacher and administrative
representatives. Cyndy Curran, Executive Director gave a report about
ASC activities that took place during the year. She reviewed the 4
regional workshops that highlighted the Translating
Standards to Practice document, the summer institute with an earth
science focus that took place in Anchorage in August, and the activities
of the Executive Council. A budget report was given by treasurer, Cheryl