Teacher Perceptions of Native Science During an Indigenous Virtual STEM Camp
Abstract: Native science and indigenous ways of knowing are undervalued in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, limiting Native scientists’ and STEM professionals’ ability to support STEM education for Native youth. This study examined the experiences of teachers who facilitated a virtual STEM (VSTEM) camp for an indigenous tribe located in the Southwestern United States. The objective of the VSTEM camp was to increase interest and knowledge of STEM by incorporating language, culture, and heritage into hands-on engagement of students and families through outdoor-based STEM projects and activities. The camp included experiments, natural world observations, and lessons from Native STEM professionals and community members. The study collected data from six interviews to learn how teachers and STEM professionals leveraged Native science to teach STEM to Native youth. Analysis of interview data suggests that using Native science to teach STEM helped students view themselves as capable of pursuing a career in STEM. Additionally, teachers believed it was their duty to perpetuate indigenous knowledge and traditions and help students connect with their culture and heritage by understanding Western STEM through a Native science lens. This study aims to help educators understand the value of incorporating Native science into the STEM curriculum and assist teachers in increasing interest in STEM for Native students.