Making a connection to field geoscience for Native American youth through culture, nature, and community
Ricci and Riggs, 2019
Abstract: This qualitative study examines the experience of 12 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, and that they can live a cultural way of life and still be scientists. In this study we used hermeneutic phenomenology to understand the experience of the participating youth. Semistructured, life-world, pre- and postinterviews were designed to elucidate participants' program experience. These were coded and analyzed following phenomenological methodology. Our analysis shows the function of program elements in providing a supportive path for student participants into science building on a base of cultural and individual assets. The results suggest that having a supportive community that is familial, supportive, and empowering, and in which youth can express their culture while participating in outdoor programming provides the foundation to approach the science content. Moreover, positive connections between nature and our science content are made in this context, broadening participants' concept of science to include outdoor and field sciences. This provides scaffolding in which these new conceptions of science as nature, and nature as science, can be applied to participants' lives outside of the program, and also increases a sense of science identity and an accompanying shift in aspirations to become tribal science leaders.