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LIZ COOK

History Colorado

Ute STEM: A Study in the Integration of Western Knowledge and Native American...

NSF Awards: 1612311

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Informal / multi-age

The film “Traditional Knowledge + Modern Science” was made as part of the Ute STEM Project, in the summer of 2017 and 2018 when Ute elders, Ute youth, and scientists visited sites in the Western Slope and San Luis Valley of Colorado. In the film Ute elders and scientists discuss the traditional ecological knowledge and contemporary science practice.

The Ute STEM Project explores the integration of Western science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and Native American Knowledge bases and builds on over 20 years of collaboration between History Colorado, the three Ute Indian tribes, and scientists. The five-year grant engages 128,000 STEM learners, educators, and experts across Colorado and Utah in cutting-edge archaeological and ethnobotanical field work;  interactive exhibits and videos; public programs for families and adults; K-12 education outreach programs, digital badges, and teacher training; and findings for museums, tribes, and scientists.

The project work highlights Ute peoples’ systematic knowledge of diverse ecosystems and plant use, engineering of wood shelters, mathematical patterns in beadwork, and technological innovations as a complementary form of STEM knowledge. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples, developed from experience gained and passed down over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment. TEK and western STEM fields were once viewed as opposites. Now, projects like Ute STEM are advancing these two systems as complementary and valuable approaches to scientific understanding.

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