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Integrating Culture and Science Ed: Rose Honey

By Jill Anderson
08/15/2012 10:42 AM
9 Comments

Rose HoneyDoctoral student , Ed.M.’05, never thought she’d wind up doing , especially in her native . After all, she had jobs as varied as teaching science in Zimbabwe and working in children’s television.

But it was actually through her teaching position in Zimbabwe that she started thinking of bringing her expertise – including degrees in physics and mind, brain, and education – back to her home state. Her experience in the African nation ignited an interest in how different cultures learn in different ways, something she could apply to the in Montana.

“Working with Native communities was a way to bring all of my interests together and bring them back home,” Honey says. “Thus, the more interested I became in the integration of local Native American culture into science education.”

Honey is part of an emerging field of study examining how Native Americans learn science. A lack of Native Americans in the field of science initially prompted the Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship recipient to study how middle school students become interested in science, possibly leading to careers in the science and technology fields.

Montana, home to seven reservations and 12 different Native American tribes, offered the perfect place to research, especially considering the Indian Education for All Act — a bill introduced and passed into law in the state in 1999 — mandating that Native American history and culture be integrated into curriculum.  Honey believes using traditional stories and knowledge about medicinal plants may be one way to include Native culture in the science curriculum, and may provide students with a way to relate to the materials they are learning.  It is also a way to teach Native students their culture and language, and how it relates to the environment around them.

As part of her dissertation work, Honey is focusing specifically on how intrinsically motivated Native American middle school students are to learn cultural information related to the science taught in the classroom. In particular, she’s trying to determine whether students become more interested in science when culture is incorporated into the lessons. The mixed methods study will look at 150 students – both Native American and white, who live on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana – to assess the importance and value of using culture as a learning tool.

Ultimately, Honey says she hopes her research will provide insight for educators and hopefully show them how important it is to incorporate local culture into the classroom.  Her goal is to get more Native American students to choose careers in the science field a particularly relevant topic given that many reservations in Montana are home to plentiful resources and are contentious grounds for issues concerning water management, oil drilling, and wind energy.

“There are a lot of decisions being made that impact the land,” Honey says. “We want to get more Native Americans involved in sciences so they can be the ones who are grounded in both science and their culture, and the ones who make decisions that are better for their community.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dtutak Devon Steven

    Kudos to Rose! I’m writing this comment during a two-day visit to Missoula to observe my partners at Montana PBS during their work on the Flathead Reservation with my Ready To Learn project. It’s truly a remarkable a community and I look forward to hearing more about Rose’s work.

    HGSE is such a small world!

    Devon Steven, Ed.M. ’04

  • Susana Claro

    Vamos Rose!!! this was your dream when you finished your masters!!! Congrats!!! Im so proud. Best!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/understanding.israel Understanding Israel

    Rose, I work on the Muckleshoot reservation where my friend is working on her doctorate in education. We would be very interested in your findings. We can be reached at ravenspuppets@yahoo,com. Thank you for your work in this field. I studied at Harvard for the summer course Closing the Achievement Gap last summer.

  • Dr. Archie Beauvais

    Rose: Congrats on your work with the Flathead. I created a couple of college degrees for my reservation (Rosebud Sioux) here in South Dakota during my career after leaving HGSE and I now realize what a vital impact HGSE alums and students like yourself continue to have.

  • Dr. Archie Beauvais

    Rose: Congrats on your work with the Flathead. I created a couple of college degrees for my reservation (Rosebud Sioux) here in South Dakota during my career after leaving HGSE and I now realize what a vital impact HGSE alums and students like yourself continue to have.

  • Ppinez-Nigeria

    What a surprise to hear that native Americans have culture which can even affect the way they learn. Whenever I hear the word culture, the first people that come to my mind are Afticans, because of our cultural diversities. Pls HGSE, I will be glad if you can share a bit of Rose’s findings.

  • Ppinez-Nigeria

    What a surprise to hear that native Americans have culture which can even affect the way they learn. Whenever I hear the word culture, the first people that come to my mind are Afticans, because of our cultural diversities. Pls HGSE, I will be glad if you can share a bit of Rose’s findings.

  • Carmelita

    Rose, Please share what you find with the entire tribal college family. Here at Turtle Mountain we have been actively training Native students in the philosophies of Cajete and Kawagley. Our Native Ways of Knowing secondary science teacher education program has thus far generated 15 Native high school science teachers wtih 5 more on the way now!
    Dr. Carmelita Lamb
    Turtle Mountain Community College

  • Rjbarnhardt

    For those of you interested in Rose’s topic, you might check out a recent book published by Salish-Kootenai College (with support from NSF) titled Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, Edited by Paul Boyer. I suspect Rose is familiar with the book.

    Ray Barnhardt

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