Creating Pathways Toward Geoscience Education for Native American Youth: The Importance of Cultural Relevance and Self-Concept

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Unsworth, S., Riggs E. M., & Chavez, M. (2012). Creating Pathways Toward Geoscience Education for Native American Youth: The Importance of Cultural Relevance and Self-Concept. Journal of Geoscience Education, 60(4), 384-392. DOI: 10.5408/11-218.1
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Native American nations in the United States have a unique legal status that is rooted in a complex relationship between the United States federal government, individual state and local governments and tribal authorities. Although geosciences are often at the center of these relationships, especially as they pertain to the development of natural resources, tribal economics, and environmental stewardship, Native Americans remain severely underrepresented in advanced geoscience education. We evaluated the effectiveness of a culturally grounded, field-based geoscience education program for Native American adolescents using pre- and postprogram surveys. The results showed that at the end of the program, youth were more likely to agree that their tribe uses science to manage natural resources, their tribe has always used science, and earth and rocks make them who they are. These responses were related to an increased likelihood to agree that what can be learned in school is important to their tribe, that they will go to university, and that they could be scientists as adults. These findings highlight the importance of two factors in helping to create pathways toward the geosciences for Native youth: 1) perceived relevance of science to tribes, and 2) self-concepts (e.g., concepts of self as earth, rocks, and scientist).

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