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Reach for the Sky: Integrating STEM outcomes for American Indian Youth

Reach for the Sky is an innovative science and engineering program funded by the National Science Foundation Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST). Reach for the Sky (RFTS) is a youth-based ITEST program that strives to make learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics more culturally relevant to Anishinabe youth (grades 5-12).

Grant Sponsor
National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator:
Gillian Roehrig, STEM Education Center
Project Personnel:

Tamara Moore, STEM Education Center

Stephan Carlson, U of M Extension

Brant Miller, STEM Education Center

Younkyeong Nam, STEM Education Center

James Nyachwaya, STEM Education Center

Shiyu Liu, Educational Psychology

James Allen, STEM Education Center

Reach for the Sky is a three year (2007-2010) partnership between the University of Minnesota, the White Earth 21st Century After School Program, and schools on the White Earth Reservation (Circle of Life, Mahnomen, Pine Point, and Naytahwaush). University of Minnesota faculty are from three colleges: College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Education and Human Development and the Institute of Technology, as well as University of Minnesota Extension.

The program is designed to bring innovative hands-on STEM curriculum and activities to students in a five-week summer program offered each June/July and through web-based lessons shared with students, teachers, and staff in the White Earth 21st Century after school program. The inquiry-based curriculum, experiential design, cultural relevance and youthful perspective help to make STEM engaging to students. The STEM content if focused on energy and alternative energy sources.

The goals and objectives for students (grades 4-8) in the Reach for the Sky program are to:

  • Improve students’ knowledge of STEM concepts and IT skills.
  • Improve students’ attitudes toward STEM and persistence in STEM careers.
  • Improve teachers’ knowledge and implementation of inquiry-based instruction with IT integration into STEM content.

RFTS students learn modern science, math and engineering through traditional American Indian stories and hands-on activities. Integrating western science and the Anishinabe way of life is critical to the program’s success. Reservation Elders, University faculty, and students are all involved in teaching the students that math, science and engineering are part of their daily lives. Weaving traditional skills and knowledge with modern science has energized community involvement.

Publications & Presentations:

Guzey, S.S., Moore, T.J., & Roehrig, G.H. (2010). Curriculum development for STEM integration: Bridge design on the White Earth Reservation. In L. E. Kattington (Ed.), Handbook of curriculum development. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Guzey, S.S., Moore, T.J., & Roehrig, G.H. (2009). Bridge design on the reservation: A study of curriculum implementation with American Indian youth. 2009 American Society for Engineering Education National Conference, Austin, TX, 14 pages.

Nam, Y., Park, M. S., Kim, Y. R., Roehrig, G.H. & Moore, T. (2011, April). Shelter Design: Problem Solving Lesson Using a Culturally Relevant STEM Topic. National Association of Research in Science Teaching, Annual Conference, Orlando, FL.

Miller, B. G. & Roehrig, G. H. (2011, April). Employing a Culturally-based Context as a Means to Science Agency: Snow Snakes and STEM. National Association of Research in Science Teaching, Annual Conference, Orlando, FL.

Guzey, S., Nyachwaya, J., Roehrig, G.H, Moore, T., Plumb, S., & Imbertson, P. (2010, January). A Neen Dush: Harvesting the Wind in the Reservation: A Curriculum Implementation. Association of Science Teacher Education, Sacramento, CA.

Roehrig, G.H, Carlson, S., Moore, T.J., Bowman, N. & Miller, B.G. (2009, October). Reach for the Sky, an American Indian Community-wide STEM Program. National Indian Education Association, Milwaukee, WI.

Guzey, S., Moore, T.J., & Roehrig, G.H. (2009, June). Bridge Design on the Reservation: A Study of Curriculum Implementation with American Indian Youth. American Society of Engineering Education, Austin, TX.

Contacts: Gillian Roehrig and Tamara Moore

See more about this project:

Kids filling weather balloon outside.
Helping students reach higher - UMNews covers story on Reach for the Sky program on White Earth Reservation.


Photo of Brant Miller
Brant Miller, Ph.D. candidate in curriculum and instruction's science education track, designed a curriculum around the traditional Snow Snakes winter time game on the White Earth reservation. See Snow Snakes video .


Researchers posing for picture.
Head of the class – The University's Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes STEM Education Center researchers for finding novel ways to engage students


Student shooting off rocket outdoors. Tradition and innovation – A partnership between the college and the Anishinaabe tribe uses knowledge to impart key STEM concepts.


Go to the Reach for the Sky web site .


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Last modified on November 27, 2013.