N.D. Colleges Inspire Tomorrow’s Scientists

May 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-4: Colleges for the Community, Tribal College News

What would attract high school students to spend eight Sunday afternoons in a classroom? Science. The budding scientists pondered real world questions such as the height and volume of a water tower, methods of moving heavy objects, and the science of pizza making.

The Sunday Academy sessions were part of an initiative designed to increase the number of Native American mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. It is funded by a grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC).

Several years ago the tribal college in North Dakota approached the engineering department at North Dakota State University and asked if they would be interested in developing a program to make tribal students succeed in engineering. Deans at the four other tribal colleges in North Dakota all expressed interest in participating. Faculty and administrators from NDSU and the tribal colleges designed project activities to engage the students’ interest.

“It was really excited to see 18 high school kids doing standards-based math and science,” said the TMCC project director, Dr. Carol Davis. NDSU broadcast the Sunday Academy instruction to the 18 Turtle Mountain students and to and to 40 Sitting Bull College. One tribal college is being added to the initiative each year. Reservation high schools do not offer complete pre-college math and science experiences due to remoteness, inadequate facilities, and limited staff. Consequently Indian students have not been attracted to careers that require higher level math, science and technology skills. “These professions are critical to the future development of this country as well as the reservations,” Davis said.

In addition to the eight Sunday Academy sessions (one per month), they held a summer camp at NDSU and another at TMCC. The camps focused upon hands-on learning, such as visiting the hospital engineering facilities to see how math and science were applied there. Groups of students prepared power point presentations for the science fair on the last day of camp.

The initiative involves faculty from the tribal colleges, high schools, and the university. The tribal college students were introduced to research, and they served as tutors and mentors for the younger students.

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