Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Gaa-Noodin-Oke (Alternative Energy/Wind Power): A Curriculum Implementation on the White Earth Reservation

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Gaa-Noodin-Oke (Alternative Energy/Wind Power): A Curriculum Implementation on the White Earth Reservation

Article excerpt

Abstract

A wind energy focused curriculum for grades 4-8 was designed and implemented to promote the understanding of wind energy concepts with American Indian students. 57 students who participated In the summer program of the"Reach for the Sky"(RFTS) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) received the curriculum. The two week long curriculum allowed students to engage in various STEM activities. Students completed design challenges such as building and testing table-top wind turbines and anemometers. Students were asked to keep a notebook where they designed and recorded scientific experiments, recorded data and observations, and drew conclusions and reflections. Student notebooks and pre and post assessments were analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum on students' learning of the wind energy concepts. We found that the curricular activities and the use of notebooks enhanced American Indian students' achievement.

Gaa-noodin-oke (Alternative Energy/Wind Power): A Curriculum Implementation on the Ulhite Earth Reservation

Non-formal programs such as summer school and afterschool programs have proved to be very helpful to low-income students or students in underserved groups (Mahoney, 2000; Mahoney, Eccles, & Larson, 2004). Participation in non-formal programs provides various opportunities for low-income students to have similar experiences middle-class students have (Posner&Vandell, 1999) and to increase attitudes toward school (Davalos, Chavez, & Guardiola, 1999). Elowever, students in economically distressed communities are least likely to participate in such programs (Davalos, Chavez, & Guardiola, 1999; Furstenberg, Eccles, Elder, & Sameroff, 1999) for various reasons such as the limited number of programs that are being offered to them. Low-Income, marginalized students need to be involved in programs that are designed to increase their knowledge of and Interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, to enhance their motivation to learning, and to have positive Impact on students'attitudes toward school. STEM skills and knowledge can be effectively increased by spending quality time learning the subject matter and connecting it to traditional knowledge and students' everyday life experiences (Demmert, 2001).

If low-income, underserved students participate in non-formal STEM programs they can develop their skills and confidence and consider a career in a STEM area. The National Research Council (NRC) released a report on STEM education in the U.S., which addresses the need for improving STEM education and preparing students to choose future careers In STEM fields (NRC, 2011). The report also points out that there are significant gaps In achievement In STEM disciplines between students in underserved groups of black, Elispanic, American Indian, and low-income students. There is a growing concern about increasing the participation of lowachieving group of students in STEM education. This paper will provide details about a wind energy focused curriculum for grades 4-8 that was designed and implemented to promote the understanding of wind energy concepts In an out-of-school program with American Indian students. Results from a study of student artifacts related to student understanding will also be presented.

The need for Intervention

American Indian students have been underserved for many years. Past studies on the education of American Indians have identified problems such as low enrollment and graduation rates, large percentage of absenteeism, suspension and expulsion, low achievement scores on math, science, and reading, and the high dropout rates as ones that are commonly associated with American Indian students'education (Bradley, 1984; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2008; Nelson, Simonsen, & Swanson, 2003; Preston, 1991). American Indian students have a number of factors in their social and educational environments that put them at a disadvantage compared to other student populations (NCES, 2008). …

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