AISES Enrichment Camp Makes Science Fun
Indian Country Today
Ever eat a s’more made in a solar oven or fish with a robot-powered boat? That’s what Eagle Butte students designed and engineered at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s (AISES) Science and Engineering Enrichment Camp July 10-14, 2017 in South Dakota.
At the science camp, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte students engaged in hands-on science and engineering activities with facilitators and teachers. The camp encouraged students to think critically and creatively about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts. This camp is part of AISES’ Native Youth and Community Project (NYCP), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, a four-year partnership with Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Schools and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
About 40 Cheyenne-Eagle Butte students in grades K-6 participated in interactive group activities facilitated by AISES during the enrichment camp. Every day, the students learned new skills to solve problems, design projects, and tackle basic STEM concepts through fun, hands-on activities.
Students used the engineering design process to construct balloon-powered racecars, containers protecting eggs from a two-story drop, kites, and solar ovens for making s’mores. To demonstrate chemical reactions and other aspects of physical science, students made fizzing lemonade by combining an acid and a base, froze a sugary concoction with the help of rock salt, and explored the properties of a liquid versus solid making Oobleck.
AISES also engaged students in computer science activities using cutting-edge technology. Students were tasked with designing fishing boats to rescue sunken toys from the bottom of inflatable pools, powered only by the Sphero robot balls and driven using a tablet and the Sphero app. Students also engaged their creative side, using Sphero to draw their own group mural.
In November 2016, the AISES project launched with nine students and two educators from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Schools attending the AISES National Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the AISES National Conference students attended a variety of sessions ranging from STEM career exploration to innovative STEM research, while educators participated in the many professional development opportunities offered throughout the conference. In Spring 2017, AISES facilitated a computer programming challenge during the science and math periods at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte high school. Students learned basic concepts of coding, using block-based, and visual coding to navigate Sphero robot balls through a maze. Cheyenne-Eagle Butte teachers received a brief training and all equipment was left with the school in an effort to build the capacity of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Schools to expand and enhance their computer science curriculum.
How Are AISES Enrichment Camps Funded?
In 2016, AISES received a four-year grant from the Bureau of Indian Education totaling almost $700,000 to work with the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Schools and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to address barriers to college and career readiness, specifically in the STEM fields among American Indian students.
The work AISES is doing is designed to increase interest and engagement in STEM subjects among students of all ages, build the capacity of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Schools to support students in STEM, and generate Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe parent and community support of and engagement in STEM studies and careers, particularly for Cheyenne River youth. Improving STEM education by introducing novel and culturally appropriate curriculum and programs provides Cheyenne-Eagle Butte students with opportunities to grow and flourish in new environments, which is the core mission of this collaborative project. The project builds upon existing relationships, opportunities, and infrastructure to provide engaging STEM programming, working toward paving a vibrant future in STEM for the whole Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe community.
“AISES has been inspiring young scientists for 40 years,” said Sarah EchoHawk, AISES CEO. “Our goal is to get youth and their families excited about learning science with hands-on interactive activities to support the next generation of Native STEM professionals. Through this work, AISES helps to illuminate the pathway to STEM careers within corporations, government agencies, and Tribal Nations to create a better world for all. Science is fun! Science is an adventure! AISES wants students to love science and not see it as hard or unattainable.”
“AISES’ work with Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and CRST is exciting and will hopefully have a significant impact on the youth of Eagle Butte,” said Kathy DeerInWater, Director of Special Projects and Research at AISES. “In our inaugural year, we could not be more pleased with the response to the summer science camp and the other activities happening in Eagle Butte.”
Parents, students, and educators can learn more about STEM careers and opportunities for American Indians by attending the AISES 2017 National Conference September 21-23 in Denver, Colorado.