Educational programs to underserved communities serve many purposes. Exposure to hands on science lessons, ideas related to healthy living, and missions of the National Institutes of Health will supplement their classroom pedagogy. The community outreach will increase awareness of health and science professions among Native American populations and help to bridge the significant gap in health and education disparities.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center, with the support of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, will leverage the trust and cooperative spirit that we have garnered working with tribal schools and communities in Nebraska and South Dakota to develop, implement, and evaluate science curriculum targeting Native American students grades K-12. The long term goals of this project are to promote student interest in the sciences, foster a more science literate public, and ultimately to increasethe number of Native Americans entering health and science careers. Improving science instruction in the classrooms serving our Native American partners is key to this project. This objective will be accomplished by creating and adapting hands-on, age appropriate lessons. Teacher support through summer workshops, mentoring, and in-service education will facilitate implementation of novel science strategies for use in tribal schools. Student engagement will be enhanced through summer experiences from science camps for middle school to longer term enriching programs for select high schools students. Reaching beyond the classroom to parents and communities is also critical to the success of this project. Community programs will be designed to give parents and elders the sense of excitement that students feel when doing science. Ancillary benefits will include promoting educational opportunities, healthy living, and improving health literacy. Professional evaluations will be made at all stages, with major emphasis being placed on evaluating the educational and community impact of the project. Research techniques will include baseline and post measures of attitudes and subject content, participant evaluation questionnaires, and student retrospective pretests. Advancing the health of Native American communities is the ultimate aim of every aspect of this project. Improved science teaching and heightened awareness of health careers will encourage students to enter these careers and hopefully to bring these skills back to their communities. Public outreach that increases health literacy and healthy living will promote better personal health decisions.