Encouraging Excellence: Health Science Education in Native American Communities

Project Website(s)

  • Project Description

    The Encouraging Excellence project focuses on bringing health and science education to schools and communities on seven Indian reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota. In addition, we have a partnership with the Native Indigenous Centered Education program of the Omaha Public Schools and the Ponca Education Centers that are located in several cities in Nebraska. Specific aims of the project are to 1) Strengthen the foundation of trust among partners; 2) Improve science instruction in classrooms serving our Native American partners; 3) Expand student horizons through hands-on science activities and exposure to health science careers; 4) Assess the short- and long-term impact on teachers, students, and communities. Our efforts will bring health science education programs to these underserved communities. The project exposes students and teachers to a variety of STEM topics through hands-on science lessons, ideas related to healthy living, and missions of the National Institutes of Health. The community outreach component is intended to increase awareness of health and science professions among Native American populations and help to bridge the significant gap in health and education disparities.

  • Abstract

    The University of Nebraska Medical Center will continue to leverage the trust and cooperative spirit we have garnered working with tribal schools and communities in Nebraska and South Dakota. We will develop, implement, and evaluate science curriculum, outreach activities, and training experiences targeting Native American students and their teachers in 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 increase the number of Native Americans entering health and science careers. Improving science and math 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. Through summer workshops, mentoring, and in-service education, teacher support will facilitate the implementation of novel science and math education strategies for use in tribal schools. Student engagement will be enhanced through summer experiences from science camps for middle school to longer-term enrichment programs for select high school 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 hope to bring these skills back to their communities. Public outreach that increases health literacy and healthy living will promote better personal health decisions.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Project website; Educational conferences; Peer-reviewed journals; STEM teacher publications

Project Audience

K-12 students, teachers, and STEM collaborators

Subjects Addressed

Activities for K-12 students; Resources for K-12 teachers; Teacher Professional Development; Math and Science Enrichment; STEM education