Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

COSEE-AK Ocean Science Fairs: A Science Fair Model That Grounds Student Projects in Both Western Science and Traditional Native Knowledge

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

COSEE-AK Ocean Science Fairs: A Science Fair Model That Grounds Student Projects in Both Western Science and Traditional Native Knowledge

Article excerpt

PURPOSE

Flow to best broaden participation in science-to engage underserved populations that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers-is of increasing interest for science education researchers. The Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence-Alaska (COSEE-AK) Ocean Science Fair model was designed as an intentional integration of Western science with traditional cultural knowledge to broaden the participation of Alaska Native and rural students in science and thus prepare them for STEM jobs and careers.

COSEE-AK, the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN) partnered from 2009 to 2013 to promote the engagement of Alaska Native and rural students in local, regional, and statewide science and technology fairs that include traditional Alaska Native and/ or otherwise locally relevant knowledge on an equal footing with scientific knowledge. The addition of judging criteria and judges in the area of cultural merit and relevance to the student's community is the key innovation to the typical science fair, one designed to affirm both the students' science learning and the cultural context of the science learning.

COSEE-AK is a consortium of ocean research and education organizations that includes the UAF Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Alaska Sea Grant, the Alaska SeaLife Center, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Nationally, COSEE's mission is to assist ocean scientists in reaching broad audiences with their research. COSEE-AK does this with a thematic focus on "People, Oceans and Climate Change" while weaving Alaska Native knowledge and Western science together. Creating the COSEE-AK Ocean Science Fair is one of multiple strategies being used to address COSEE-AK's thematic focus.

CONTEXT

Impacts of Science Fairs on Students

Research focused on the impacts of science fairs on students is lacking, even though these activities have been a stable practice in education since the 1940s (Grote, 1995; Yasar and Baker, 2003; Sonnert et al, 2013). Deeter (1987) focused on the teachers' willingness to do science fairs and their reasons for participating. Other researchers (Grote, 1995; Bunderson and Anderson, 1996) demonstrated that even though teachers lacked science fair experience, the science fair was a worthy activity from their point of view because it provided learning that could not be duplicated in the classroom. Research by Czerniak (1996) and Somers and Callan (1999), as cited by Carlone and Johnson (2007), indicates that engagement in science competition activities positively correlates with increased student interest in science and potential for engaging in science careers. Other than these few studies noting changes in interest levels, research on the impacts of science fairs on students' knowledge, skills, or behaviors is limited.

During the 1980s and 1990s, a growing interest in equity issues in science engagement resulted in research on science fairs as part of a broader pursuit of multicultural teaching and a concern about increasing the involvement of women in science (Aikenhead and Jegede, 1999; Brickhouse et al., 2000; Yasar and Baker, 2003; Carlone and Johnson, 2007; Sonnert et al., 2013). A number of researchers noted the increased involvement of female students in science fairs (Brickhouse et al., 2000; Sonnert et al., 2013). But others expressed concern that the "culture of science remained most congruent with the white male norm and students face unpleasant conditions" (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997, cited in Carlone and Johnson, 2007). Aikenhead and Jegede (1999) referenced scholarship by Maddock (1981) and Pomeroy (1997) that described school science as a foreign culture to students that "created a cultural clash" between the lives of the students and the aims of Western science.

Traditional Knowledge and Western Science

In the early years of the 21st century, scientists across the world started focusing on the inclusion of local knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into scientific research as a way to engage rural and indigenous communities. …

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