Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 49–70 | Cite as

Effective practices for creating transformative informal science education programs grounded in Native ways of knowing

  • Elizabeth Mack
  • Helen Augare
  • Linda Different Cloud-Jones
  • Dominique Davíd
  • Helene Quiver Gaddie
  • Rose E. Honey
  • Angayuqaq O. Kawagley
  • Melissa Little Plume-Weatherwax
  • Lisa Lone Fight
  • Gene Meier
  • Tachini Pete
  • James Rattling Leaf
  • Elvin Returns From Scout
  • Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer
  • Hi’ilani Shibata
  • Shelly Valdez
  • Rachel Wippert


There are a growing number of informal science education (ISE) programs in Native communities that engage youth in science education and that are grounded in Native ways of knowing. There is also a growing body of research focusing on the relationship between culture, traditional knowledge, and science education. However, there is little research documenting how these programs are being developed and the ways in which culture and Western science are incorporated into the activities. This study outlines effective practices for using Native ways of knowing to strengthen ISE programs. These effective practices may also be used to promote change in formal education. The authors combine an overview of current research in informal science education with personal interviews with educators engaged in ISE programs offered to youth both on and off tribal reservations as well as experts in Indigenous education. Participating individuals and programs included Native communities across the United States, including Alaska and Hawai’i. Keeping in mind that each community is unique, ISE programs that are grounded in Native ways of knowing will benefit by utilizing the effective practices outlined here as a guide for starting or strengthening existing ISE programs relevant to the needs of their communities.


Indigenous communities Indigenous ways of knowing Informal science learning Native science Science education Effective practices Traditional knowledge Native ways of knowing Indigenous youth 



Within each of us there is potential to do great things for our community and for future generations. When a person recognizes the limitless strength of the spirit, and reaches beyond themselves to form a living bridge between the knowledge of our ancestors and the future health of our grandchildren, they give a gift to our community that lasts far beyond their lifetime. Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley embodied this vision in his work and the wisdom that he shared. We are honored to have worked with him on this effective practices research study and article. We are enormously grateful for his leadership and his many contributions towards forging a new path in this field. In an earlier tribute to his life, this journal recognized that “Oscar’s gift and love of teaching has seen him empower students to become leaders in their communities, teachers to become better at their practice, and stand at the forefront of many innovations in his field with an influence far beyond his own community (Archibald et al. 2007).” We recognize the legacy of his life and hope to carry these gifts far into the future for the generations to come. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (Native Science Field Centers grant #0610270) and the Bush Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Mack
    • 1
  • Helen Augare
    • 2
  • Linda Different Cloud-Jones
    • 3
  • Dominique Davíd
    • 4
  • Helene Quiver Gaddie
    • 5
  • Rose E. Honey
    • 6
  • Angayuqaq O. Kawagley
    • 7
  • Melissa Little Plume-Weatherwax
    • 2
  • Lisa Lone Fight
    • 8
  • Gene Meier
    • 9
  • Tachini Pete
    • 10
  • James Rattling Leaf
    • 11
  • Elvin Returns From Scout
    • 5
  • Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer
    • 12
  • Hi’ilani Shibata
    • 13
  • Shelly Valdez
    • 14
  • Rachel Wippert
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Blackfeet Native Science Field CenterBlackfeet Community CollegeBrowningUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Environmental SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  4. 4.Native Science FellowshipHopa MountainBozemanUSA
  5. 5.Lakota Native Science Field CenterOglala Lakota CollegeKyleUSA
  6. 6.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA
  7. 7.University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  8. 8.Department of Geospatial ScienceMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  9. 9.University of WyomingLaramieUSA
  10. 10.Snqwiiqwo Salish Immersion Pre-school and Primary SchoolArleeUSA
  11. 11.Sicangu Policy InstituteSinte Gleska UniversityMissionUSA
  12. 12.Hopa MountainBozemanUSA
  13. 13.Bishop MuseumUniversity of Hawai’iHonoluluUSA
  14. 14.Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, Native Pathways (NaPs)LagunaUSA

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