Developing Culturally Based Science Curriculum for Native American Classrooms

In this paper, the author briefly discusses the importance of culturally response education for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students and how culturally responsive principles can be applied to science instruction. In this article, Gilbert describes how researchers collaborated with tribal leaders, native educators, elders, cultural experts, medicine men and women, and other respected adults to develop an elementary school science curriculum that connects to native cultural science knowledge. Within the text, the author describes the instructional sequence used to design modules and lessons that integrate culture into instruction of science concepts. In this sequence, there are four phases that guide lesson development, including phases for incorporating cultural knowledge and vocabulary in ways that expand upon student understanding of concepts. The author describes the need for culturally based science curriculum as vital to improving student achievement, as well as for helping AI/AN communities maintain language, culture, and traditional “ways of knowing.”

Content Comments 

For teachers and educators interested in creating and using science lessons that are culturally based, this article introduces the Loololma Model for lesson planning that connects and integrates science curriculum with native practices and beliefs.  Included are recommendations on its implementation and examples of lesson activities, in particular, a lesson on Nutrients in Native Food Plants. Additionally, throughout the article, the author provides a general orientation and definition of beliefs and instructional strategies that are appropriate for Native American students. The article contains some research evidence to support the use of culturally based science curriculum as an effective way to lesson plan for Native American students. Although research-based, this article is accessible for educators at all levels.