Breaking Barriers: Health Science Education in Native American Communities

Project Website(s)

  • Project Description

    Bring the excitement of science to K-8 students in tribal schools through teacher workshops and hands-on student activities Increase teacher retention and effectiveness in geographically remote tribal schools teacher workshops follow-up mentoring and continuous coaching provide teachers with the support necessary to deliver quality science to their students Focus on health and health care issues in summer science camps Highlight local and regional Native Americans in health care and science professions to provide much needed role models for today’s Native American youth Our partnership with AATCHB and the trust we are building with each tribal community will allow discussion of the role and importance of clinical research

  • Abstract

    University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) will partner with the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (AATCHB) with tribal schools in Nebraska and South Dakota and with an urban elementary school to develop implement and evaluate health science curriculum targeting Native American students in grades K-8. The long-term goals of this project are to promote student interest in the health sciences foster a more science-literate public and ultimately to increase the number of Native Americans entering health careers. Key to the project will be the development of health science educational modules that will provide teachers with hands-on age-appropriate activities and materials for classroom use. To further engage student interest the curriculum will adapt materials to provide cultural role models. Teachers will have input in the development of the modules and be trained in their use during summer workshops. Distance learning activities web-based bulletin boards and visits by program personnel will provide ongoing professional development for the teachers. Student participation will be expanded through summer science camps in local settings. Work done by students and teachers will be showcased during annual health fairs and powwows in each tribal region. Reaching beyond the classroom to parents and communities is critical to the success of this project. Community education programs will be designed to promote health and increase understanding of the clinical trials process. Professional evaluations will be made at all stages with major emphasis being placed on evaluating the educational and community impact. 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 health science teaching and heightened awareness of health carees will encourage students to enter these careers and bring their skills back to their communities. Public outreach that increases knowledge of health science topics will promote better personal health decisions and create awareness of the benefits of clinical research.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Teacher workshops to provide training for hands-on science activities Visits to reservation schools including in-service activities for teachers. Continued support for teachers following workshop attendance. Science camps to immerse students in hands-on science and the excitement about the process of discovery. They will be introduced to potential health careers. Talks to professional and tribal organizations National distribution of posters and curricula

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    Evaluation Goals – The evaluation was designed to help develop the various aspects of the project through an understanding of the effectiveness of all activities. The program staff works with the evaluator to articulate desired outcomes of all goals and the evaluator finds or develops appropriate instruments to measure progress in achieving those outcomes. The focus of the evaluation for the first two years was formative; the final years of the project evaluation will focus on summative evidence. The first task in reaching the overarching goal of obtaining data on project effectiveness was a needs assessment of teachers and administrators (collected in Spring 2006). The needs assessment helped identify areas of science education that teachers and students needed help in developing knowledge and skills. Summer teacher workshops are evaluated for effectiveness (collected in Summer 2006 and Summer 2007). Follow-up surveys and interviews are conducted six months after the workshop to assess implementation of new knowledge and skills. Student camps were formatively evaluated in 2007. In 2008 students will participate in evaluation data collection focused more on changes in attitudes and knowledge. A comparison or quasi-experimental study of the ethnobotany supplement and Native Americans in Health and Science Careers poster series will begin in Fall 2008. Formative Evaluation – A needs assessment survey was administered in Spring 2006 to inform the project of the areas that teachers and students most require services. The results of the needs assessment identified areas of importance for each grade level group. Teachers described the science areas in which they and their students struggle most. Those results formed the basis of the first of the teacher workshops (grades 3-5). Administrators and teachers were candid about the need for more comprehensive science teaching and learning. Administrators were most likely to cite state standards and testing as impetus for change while teachers seemed eager to help students learn new knowledge and skills. At the end of each day of the summer teacher workshop teachers complete evaluations that include reactions to the day’s activities learning about new topics and thoughts about the implementation of new knowledge and skills on teaching and learning. In 2006 a follow-up interview was conducted with workshop participants. In 2007 an online survey was conducted. Both focused on the implementation of new knowledge and skills in the classroom. The feedback given by teachers on the Summer 2006 and 2007 workshops was very positive and illustrated the need for future work with the teachers. After two years of workshops it is clear that teachers are engaged with the project and eager to take their learning back to their schools and classrooms. Data from students participating in the summer camp activities are collected yearly. Student data are focused on new knowledge and skills attitudes towards science careers in science and enjoyment of doing science at the camp are all assessed. Finally the advisory board for the project is surveyed on a yearly basis to inform future project work and evaluation. Summative Evaluation – In Fall 2008 a quasi-experimental design will be used to test the effectiveness of the ethnobotany supplemental materials and the Native Americans in Health and Science Careers poster project. Assessment will be based on pre- and post-test knowledge and attitudes surveys from students. Other variables such as past teacher involvement in the Breaking Barriers project will be used to analyze student data.

  • Resources for Sharing

    Laboratory safety posters geared to elementary students Posters highlighting Native Americans in health and science fields will be produced and distributed to all partner schools and communities Teachers attending workshops will receive kits containing materials to implement science activities in their classrooms Development of curricula including Native American science and culture. An ethnobotany curriculum has been developed

Project Audience

Our SEPA program is a partnership between UNMC the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (AATCHB) and 16 schools located on six Indian reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota. An additional school is an inner city Omaha public school with more than 70% minority enrollment.

Subjects Addressed

Science enrichment workshops for teachers in grades K-8. Summer science camps for grade 6-8 students. Teacher in-services and student school day or after school programs. Science healthy living and health career programs are presented for the general tribal population at health fairs and powwows.