Native American Astronomy Outreach Program
More than ever, Native Americans are striving to improve education opportunities for their children and for generations to come, and they need your support!
Multicultural Outreach Facilitator
Lowell Observatory’s Native American Astronomy Outreach Program (NAAOP) has been working to enhance STEM education in Native classrooms since its creation by Lowell astronomers Dr. Amanda Bosh and Dr. Deidre Hunter more than 25 years ago. This program helps their voices be heard, especially in scientific fields.
Modeled after the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP)’s Project ASTRO, the NAAOP pairs astronomers with elementary and secondary school teachers from several native peoples in Northern Arizona to create a fun and engaging STEM-centric curriculum. Program participants make numerous visits to classrooms throughout the school year, leading discussions corresponding with hands-on activities and of course, getting students excited about science.
The goals of our program are twofold:
To use astronomy to help teachers get Native American children excited about astronomy and science in general, encouraging an interest in STEM careers.
Sensitivity to the cultures and worldviews of Native American audiences is an important part of our program.
We are concerned with making our presentations and activities particularly interesting and relevant to Native American students. An important aspect is to present astronomy activities in ways that foster learning specifically by Native American students. This is considered a crucial aspect in the education of Native American students by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Most Native American groups have different learning styles which must be taken into consideration in order to be effective as a teacher. For example, students may do better working cooperatively in small groups than in a setting of individual competition. For some students English is a second language which should also be taken into account, and to help us understand the issues we visited a class at Marshall Elementary School that has a large proportion of ESL students.
Our program focuses on 4th through 8th grade students. We have chosen this narrow age range primarily because we want to reach students at the transition period between the inherent curiosity about the world of young children and the fixed negative attitude towards science often seen in high school students. It is at this middle-school stage that one can have the most impact on future career options and attitudes towards science.
In addition, by working with students in a smaller range of conceptual development level, it is easier for us to learn to present ideas and work with the students on activities in an age-appropriate manner.
We are very grateful to the people, organizations, and companies who make up our long list of sponsors. Without their financial support this program would not exist.
If you would like to begin supporting the Native American Astronomy Outreach program, you may donate now.
Thank you very much for supporting our outreach efforts!
To be eligible to participate, a teacher must satisfy the following criteria:
- Be a teacher we have not worked with in the past.
- Teach 4th–8th grade.
- Teach at a school on the Hopi, Navajo, Apache, or other nearby Nations.
Teachers satisfying these criteria are invited to apply. We take teachers on a first-come basis. However, the number of partnerships depends on the funding. For the 2018-2021 school years, we have dedicated seven of our partnerships to the Kayenta Unified School District and may not have other partnerships, again depending on funding.
Increasing the Impact of Our Program
The first 20 years of Navajo-Hopi Outreach were built around individual hands-on activities. Although there may be a common thread running through the activities, such as the nature of models, each activity otherwise stands alone. However, our advisors recommended that we develop a curriculum that would potentially have a greater impact.
Thus, in 2016 we began a project of curriculum development by creating a week-long unit on Characteristics of the Planets. This unit uses Project Based Learning so that students can better see themselves as scientists and has cultural and local connections woven throughout so that students can see science as relevant to their lives. The units also include math, reading, and writing and address the standards that teachers need to prepare their students for.
In 2018 we have forged a three-year collaboration with the Kayenta Unified School District. We are working with seven of their 4th-7th grade teachers in order to design, test, and revise curriculum units for each grade level. These units will eventually become part of what we can share with teachers in our partnerships and beyond.