Abstract

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Through a series of previously funded INBRE projects, the undergraduate experience at Chief Dull Knife College (CDKC) has been transformed. The proposed project is intended to continue on this pathway by expanding participation in undergraduate research which is community relevant.  Students will gain experience in problem solving, representation, data handling, graphical representation, and team building. This project will develop a research team focused on West Nile Virus and its occurrence on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. The team will utilize GIS technology to characterize health, cultural and ethnographic data collected. As the students are introduced to the research, the faculty member will also receive training and manage the team as mentor in the research.  As we have found that students can become extremely motivated by relevant research, we feel it is necessary to expand the range our faculty in research areas as well. This approach places the students and faculty as collaborators in a joint problem solving venture.  Students will collect samples during the summer and begin analysis that will continue on into the academic year.  In this manner they are connected to the research on a more sustained basis. This also allows the mentoring process to continue throughout the year. Students benefit from a small stipend and the research is accessible for integration with traditional course work.

Attempts to understand student experiences with alienation from math and other STEM subjects have sparked research on educational methods and learning models effective for minority students.  For example, Clute (1984) found that students with high levels of math anxiety improved their performance when instructors used mastery- based teaching.  Additionally, researchers concerned with instruction effective for American Indian students found that methods that embrace active experimentation, concrete experience and mentoring or apprenticeships are consistent with many traditional cultures (Wilson, 1998). For example, effective instruction may include preferences for reflective rather than impulsive action, cooperation rather than competition, and visual-spatial and interactive learning as opposed to verbal or lecture based learning (More 1989, Swisher & Deyhle, 1989, Van Hamme, 1995).  Additionally, strategies designed to improve students math learning experiences have included group instruction and peer mentoring (Schmidtke, 2010, Lundberg 2007: Hooker 2010; Larimore & McClellan 2005.)  Finally culturally grounded instructional approaches and problems have been found to facilitate and strengthen learning (Larimore & McClellan 2005, Huffman 2001).

Cajete (1994, 1999; quoted and cited in Cheyfitz 2009), a native educator, asserts similar ideas for improving instruction related to science by suggesting that the western approach to teaching science alienates students by separating them from nature.  Alternatively, he recommends pedagogical approaches that relate the student of science to local community settings and cultural traditions, knowledge transfer through observation and imitation, and trial and error (Cajete 1994). Other researchers support including traditional perspective in instruction and research ( Band & Medin 2010; Hermes 2005; Pierotti & Wildcat 1997) and recognizing the contribution offered by faculty and native students ( Tran et al 2011; Miller 2010; Okagaki et al 2009; Larimore & McClennan 2005) which helps to counteract the erosion of traditional culture and identity among native students ( see Fenelon & LeBeau 200^).

In this 2016 proposal, Chief Dull Knife College is attempting to address the findings noted above through the development of “Research Teams” on our campus composed of faculty members and student researchers.  The West Nile Virus (WNV) spread across the state has given rise to a major public health concern.  The college has been involved with Carroll College and through them Montana State University in the documentation and study of WNV. We propose here to develop student in research areas, but also to develop our faculty’s capabilities in the area of scientific and health-related research. We know that student’s become more engaged in the programs of student when involved in real world relevant research. We also know student tend to perform better when a mentor is available to encourage them. We combine both of these aspects in the project to link students to reservation relevant research and to link faculty to students outside of the traditional classroom. 

Specific Aims

  1. Offer research experiences for CDKC students and faculty in the collection and analysis of mosquito specimens on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and surrounding areas for the presence of West Nile Virus.
  2. Link the WNV research findings with geospatial data GIS/GPS mapping to develop a reservation wide map of the incidence of the WNV mosquitos in addition to other reservation specific ethno botanical and ethnographic data currently being collected by the college.
  3. Develop collaborative student/faculty research teams that integrate health, cultural, mathematical and geospatial data for graphical presentation to local Northern Cheyenne and the broader research community.

Significance

The primary purpose of the research is to develop a “Research Team” approach to community and cultural issues. Northern Cheyenne students become more engaged in their education when local relevance can be demonstrated. The presence of the WNV in the reservation community demonstrates the need for continued health research to help protect the community from health threats. This research when organized into a statewide “alert” system can help local researcher educate the community members on best practices concerning such threats. Data sent to Helena will be organized into a larger dataset capable of helping all communities recognize and take precautions. 

Primary Contact

Diana Hooker dianna@cdkc.edu