The Cultural Context of Learning: Native American Science Education

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The long-term goal of this project is to improve science learning and school achievement for Native-American children. The project is composed of two complementary strands of work aimed at supporting students’ navigation between and through the various cultural contexts in which Native students learn science. One strand of work consists of design experiments in both in-school and out-of-school settings that develop, extend, and refine design principles and related curricular innovations that aim to improve science instruction for Indian children. The second strand of work consists of a series of small-scale cognitive research studies that are intended to support components of the design work and grapple with two central questions: 1) What are the impacts of ecological organization of knowledge and orientations on cognition? and 2) What are the impacts of relational construals (at minimum across space, time & identity), in the form of perspective taking and “reasoning”, on cognition?


This project is a collaborative effort between Northwestern University, TERC, the Menominee Nation and the American Indian Center of Chicago (AIC).

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is cross-sectional and comparative, and is designed to generate evidence which is descriptive (design research) and associative/correlational (quasi-experimental). This project collects original data using videography observation, survey research, and face-to-face structured and semi-structured interviews. We use both qualitative and quantitative analysis for the small scale studies, interviews, and surveys. We use primarily qualitative methods for the observations of both the classroom design experiments and the design process. However, we will do quantitative analysis of some segments of the design experiments including the content analysis.

Publications & Presentations: 

Bang, M., Medin, D., & Atran, S. (2007). Cultural Mosaics and Mental Models of Nature. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 13868-13874.

Bang, M. (in process). Indigenizing the Design and Research of Learning Environments: Youth, Adults, Elders and Domain Experts as Curriculum Designers, Teachers, Researchers and Program Implementers.

Bang, M., Medin, D., Soto, C., & Kessel, A. (2007). Community Based Design of an After-School Program in an Urban Indian Community. Paper presented at the National Indian Education Association Conference.

Other Products: 

This project will include several classroom units focused on forest ecology, plant ecology, and fresh water ecology.

Research Design: 


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