The Indigenous STEAM Collaborative is a group of researchers and educators that engages in cognitive and community co-design research to advance general knowledge, develop pedagogical approaches for engaging youth in land- and water-based learning, and provide learning materials to Indigenous families. We investigate how people reason about relationships in the natural world and develop teaching approaches to enhance learning. We apply what we learn to the development of learning tools for Indigenous youth and families, through collaboration with community organizations, educators, and families. Our research and collaborations are currently funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
We use results from interviews and surveys conducted with members of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to inform our design of learning materials, and to broaden general knowledge about how culture and experience affect people’s thinking about themselves, the environment, and relations between humans and more-than-humans.
Our learning materials and pedagogical approaches are iteratively co-designed and implemented by Indigenous community members (including youth) and our research team. Positioning community members as co-designers and researchers aims to transform powered relationships between researchers and the community in which the research is taking place, center community issues and needs from the perspective of the community, and build agency within the community.
Our Summer ISTEAM Program for Indigenous youth in grades one through twelve (Seattle and Chicago, through 2019) is designed to create the conditions under which resurgence of Indigenous knowledge systems thrive. Part of the work is to strengthen Indigenous youths’ ability to engage in complex reasoning and decision making about the environment. This involves creating and implementing pedagogy to support youths’ relations to and knowledge of lands & waters, strengthening their identities as Indigenous youth, and cultivating their commitments to addressing climate change and healing polluted lands and waters.
The learning activities and tools available on this website grew out of materials developed for the Summer ISTEAM Program. In continuing collaboration with community co-designers, we plan to develop materials to facilitate learning about technology, economics, changes over time, additional more-than-human relatives, and more.
The teaching and community co-design methods of Indigenous STEAM began decades ago in Chicago under the leadership of Megan Bang. In 2012, a two-week summer program for Indigenous youth was co-designed with community members and launched in Seattle. The program hosted 20 to 50 youth each summer through 2019. In 2019, the summer program expanded back to Chicago, returning the program to its place of origin.
With continued funding, we hope to provide in-person Summer ISTEAM Camp to Indigenous youth in the Chicago and Seattle areas and beyond in 2022.
The Indigenous STEAM Collaborative is a partnership of scholars from Northwestern University, the University of Washington, and Western Washington University dedicated to developing science learning materials for Indigenous youth and families in collaboration with families, community members, and other educators.
We are grateful for the many gifts and opportunities received from our community partners and members.
Related projects from our team and affiliates.