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Program prepares indigenous students for science careers


Fairbanks, Alaska—A new $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant will help the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute expand a program that encourages Native middle-school students to pursue science and technology careers.

The grant will fund the PREPARES project, short for Preparing Responsive Educators using Place-based Authentic Research in Earth Systems. The project will provide four years of professional development and mentoring to 120 educators who will then use those skills in the classroom with their Yupik and Native Hawaiian middle school students. As part of PREPARES, indigenous students will analyze and share climate data unique to their locations, model baseline climate scenarios and develop management plans for adapting to forecasted impacts.

The project expands to a national arena the NSF-funded Arctic Climate Modeling Program that ran from 2005 to 2009 and targeted Inupiat students in the Bering Strait School District. Geophysical Institute outreach director Kathy Berry Bertram led that project and will spearhead the PREPARES project as well.

PREPARES will provide teachers with professional development and a suite of data-rich lessons. The project, in turn, will allow students and Native elders to become citizen scientists. Those community observations will create a database of indigenous climate observations in Alaska and Hawaii. The project, which is slated to begin April 1, also includes a network of 40 scientists and 40 indigenous mentors for teachers and their students.

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