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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Salmon cycles: Influences of a science field study immersion experience with Native American young women
by Ault, Phyllis Campbell, Ed.D., Lewis and Clark College, 2008, 248; 3349506
Abstract (Summary)

Native Americans, and particularly Native women, are not proportionally represented in higher education, or in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering fields. This study examined an out-of-school science education program which combined traditional Native American cultural and ecological knowledge with Western science in conducting authentic field studies. A qualitative, embedded case study approach was used to explore how young Native American women were influenced by an out-of-school program integrating a culturally responsive approach and experiential research projects. Within this context of combined cultures, three significant domains emerged: field study in science, sense of place, and networks of supportive relationships. These domains interacted with the aspirations of the eight Native women in the study. Using interview transcripts, reflective writings, and participant data, the study explored the blending of Indigenous and Western science in “communities of practice” (e.g., fisheries biology, restoration ecology, and forestry). The eight Native women in this study participated as young adolescents and later returned as counselors. Interviews focused on their postsecondary aspirations and choices. Findings validated previous research on the value of infusing Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western science for Native students. The study found the combination of culturally responsive pedagogy and authentic experiences in “communities-of-practice” held a beneficial influence on postsecondary pathways. The importance of respect and friendships fostered through the program was associated with resilience and perseverance in educational aspirations. Immersion in field study with Native peers as well as Native and non-Native researchers was a catalyst for all the women, in a number of different ways, such as: deeper involvement with the Native community, strengthening cultural and academic identity, inspiration to learn more about their cultural heritage, and interest in pursuing science or science-related careers. Commitments to “giving back” to the community, stewardship, and activism emerged as significant outcomes. The experience created a safe, empowering place to be Native, “crazy, a scientist, and a fish geek”—all at once.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Aguilera, Dorothy E.
Commitee: Dupres, Christine J., Smith, Greg A.
School: Lewis and Clark College
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-A 70/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, School administration, Science education, Native American studies
Keywords: Academic persistence, American Indian studies, Culturally relevant education, Field experience programs, Field study immersion, Gender issues, Indigenous knowledge, Native American, Science, Women students
Publication Number: 3349506
ISBN: 978-1-109-05272-5
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