Monday, 6 October 2008
George R. Brown Convention Center, Exhibit Hall E
The Big Sky Science Partnership (BSSP) is an NSF-funded Math Science Partnership that links partners from Salish Kootenai Tribal College, the University of Montana, Montana State University, thirty K-8 schools, and three Tribal communities in Montana in a collaborative learning community. Its overarching goal is to improve science education in the K-8 schools and increase the science achievement of their students, in particular American Indian students. A total of 37 preservice and inservice teachers comprised the first of two cohorts for the western Montana region. Participants were involved in year round professional development activities, including a two-week geoscience summer institute, a three day Culture Camp, and eight days of workshops and an online course during the academic year. The primary focus of activities was to deepen the teachers' understanding of geoscience content; secondary focuses were to improve pedagogical knowledge, develop teacher leadership, and improve partners' cultural competency. During the summer institute, teachers engaged in learning experiences designed to investigate the past, present, and future behavior of Earth's interacting physical systems, and key geoscience topics included the structure and formation of Earth, Earth System cycles, water quality, and energy resources. Course activities were collaboratively designed by IHE geoscience faculty, tribal consultants and science education faculty to model best practice teaching methods. Tribal partners presented relevant Indigenous perspectives and information, both historical and contemporary, on several of the Western science topics, promoting the development of partners' cultural competency surrounding complex or controversial content areas. After implementation, the pedagogical methods and content used were critically examined by all participants and discussions were held about how activities could be adapted to be effective in supporting learning for a range of grade levels and abilities. A rigorous project evaluation produced mixed methods data that indicate the effectiveness of the BSSP in attaining its goals.