Transforming Native American Youths' Concepts of Geoscience Through a Connection to Culture, Nature and Community

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2014-05-07

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This qualitative study examines the experience of twelve Native American youth who participated in culturally appropriate geoscience summer programs throughout California. These programs have been shown to change participating youths? perceptions of science. After the programs, the youth are more likely to describe science as something tribes use to manage natural resources and have been using for a long time, something that is not only learned in classrooms, that they like science and they can live a cultural way of life and still be scientists. Hermeneutic phenomenology is used to understand the experience of the youth participating in the program. Semi-structured, life-world, pre- and post- interviews were designed to elucidate participants? program experience, conceptions of science and home life. From these, salient themes were found and organized into meaning units. It is suggested that having a supportive community, which youth have identified as a group of people described as familial, supportive and empowering, where youth can express their culture while enjoying outdoor programming provides the foundation and safe space to approach program science. Moreover, positive connections between nature and program science are made in this context. This provides scaffolding where these new conceptions of science as nature, and nature as science, can be applied to participants? lives outside of the program.

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