Tribal Nation Middle School Students Enter Virtual Reality This FallFri, 06 Aug 2021 12:39:02 CDT
Middle-school students in the public schools of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, the Pawnee Nation and the Chickasaw Nation can take advantage of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career development program put on by the Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in partnership with the College of Education and Human Sciences.
According to a press release, the after-school program will be available for the next four years, thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
"We are excited about the opportunities this program will offer our students,” said Jenny Jasper, curriculum coordinator at Shawnee Public Schools. “The skills they can learn from this STEM initiative will help them with their futures in college and career development."
According to the press release, in the upcoming program, students will learn spatial design by participating in a hack-a-thon, a VR design event in which Native American middle school students solve problems related to their tribe. VR experts will also talk to the students about potential careers in the VR field. Previous hack-a-thons hosted by the OSU Mixed Reality Lab included redesigning the Oklahoma City Zoo, solving problems related to COVID-19 and learning about retail design and how to create wearable dwellings - clothes that become a dwelling place, also according to the release.
Nicole Colston, professor and researcher with the OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management said, historically, Native American students are left behind when it comes to STEM education.
“There’s a big gap in Native American STEM education in Oklahoma. There are programs to introduce students to science, but there’s a real call for programs that introduce science in culturally relevant ways,” Colston said. “Even more important to Native American tribes is to place culture as the center of learning and use STEM learning to support that.”
From a research perspective, the goal of the program is to learn how VR activities influence how students think about their future careers and their attitudes toward science, Colston added. She also said, another goal is to learn how VR activities can support cultural learning happening in tribal nation after-school programs.
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