LBHC Creates Camp To Prepare STEM Students

May 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 15-4: Ancient Cultures Modern Technology, Tribal College News

NEW DEVICES, OLD SKILLS. Students Bethyanna Pease, David Blaine, and Susan Horn practice their Global Positioning Satellite skills at a pilot camp last summer in the Big Horn Mountains. Photo by Carrie Moran McCleary

To better support science, technology, engineering, and math students, Little Big Horn College (LBHC, Crow Agency, MT) attained a $2.5 million five-year Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUP) grant from the National Science Foundation.

The tribal college will use the funds to support a six-part program with components in curriculum development, reform, undergraduate research, community service, student recruitment, technology infusion, and faculty development.

LBHC faculty created a six-week math and science, residential academy for incoming freshman designed to help students enter LBHC with college level math and science skills. The camp will be an introduction to the various science, math, technology, and math (STEM) fields.

Experts in each field will make presentations to the students. The program staff plans to recruit students from area high schools as well.

In addition to recruitment and retention the program also seeks to help ease student transition to four-year institutions.

Program Director Alden Big Man, Jr. says students are sometimes intimidated by these fields but really shouldn’t be. “I think that we as an entire population think STEM fields were introduced by Europeans, and that is not true at all,” he says. “We had to have knowledge in these areas in order for our ancestors to survive out here.”

“The tepee is a perfect example of the knowledge of mathematics Plains Indians demonstrated. Plains Tribes had to estimate the number of buffalo hides needed for the tepee covering and how to sew them together to make them fit around the conically shaped lodge,” Big Man says.

“And in the sciences, plains tribes had to have knowledge of medicinal plants such as mint or Nez Perce root to treat their ills. They also had knowledge of dietary needs allowing them to supplement their buffalo meat diet.”

Big Man tells the story of several fur trappers being plagued by scurvy who approached some medicine men, hoping they could cure them. After examination the healers immediately gave them fruit and root vegetables. Within a few days of treatment the fur trappers were well enough to travel and trap again.

Armed with this story and others Big Man is willing to recruit students the old fashioned way, by including all direct family members.

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