History Colorado, a nonprofit historical preservation and education society, received a $2.2 million grant to integrate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with Native American culture.
The National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program awarded the five year grant in order to engage 128,000 students, educators and experts across Colorado and Utah in a variety of programs. The grant also intends to deepen relationships between History Colorado and representatives from three Ute tribes — Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe.
“This project offers a unique approach to interpretation of Ute history by focusing on science and acknowledging Ute use of science in conjunction with traditional knowledge,” Ernest House Jr., Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, said in a statement.
Through a variety of programs, including archaeological and ethnobotanical field work, interactive exhibits, public programs, teacher training and K-12 educational outreach, the project hopes to highlight the complementary nature of traditional Ute ecological practices and modern STEM, while also improving access to STEM for rural Ute students.
“The field work may interest some Ute youth in pursuing careers in science and in learning more about their own culture,” House Jr. continued.
The Ute have a strong tradition of using math and science in cultural practices. They use engineering for shelter design, mathematics in beadwork and sound amplification for music and dance, and they possess a rich and systematic knowledge of plants.
The project hopes to combine Ute Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with STEM to create an innovative collaboration model for scientists, museums and Native American tribes.
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