STEM Education Center


CYCLES: Teachers Discovering Climate Change from a Native Perspective


CYCLES addresses the need for Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) with a focus on Native perspectives. CYCLES will develop an innovative approach to understanding and teaching about GCC that is native friendly, place-based, holistic and interdisciplinary, technologically rich, and incorporates NASA data, models, and simulations.


Grant Sponsor: NASA


Principal Investigator:

Gillian Roehrig, STEM Education Center Project



Karen Campbell, St. Anthony Falls Lab/NCED

Diana Dalbotten, St. Anthony Falls Lab/NCED

Keisha Varma, Educational Psychology

Stephan Carlson, U of M Extension

Dwight Gourneau, Joel Halvorsen, Minnesota Planetarium

Younkyeong Nam, STEM Education Center

Shiyu Liu, Educational Psychology

Devarati Bhattacharya, STEM Education Center

Engin Karahan, STEM Education Center

Jeremy Wang, Educational Psychology

James Allen, STEM Education Center



Twenty middle and high school teachers from reservation schools will participate in the project that includes a two-week summer workshop each year. During the summer workshops teachers will be actively involved in doing GCC science, both in the field with local projects and working with existing data from the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED) at the University of Minnesota, as well as NASA data. During the academic year, teachers will implement lessons and activities from the summer workshops in their classrooms with support from the CYCLES staff.


The CYCLES Project directly addresses all of the NASA GCCE project goals and in addition, supports NASA's cultivation of diversity as a core value for all NASA education efforts. The specific objectives for the CYCLES project are:

  1. Strengthen teachers' understanding of fundamental Earth-System Science and Global Climate Change concepts
  2. Develop GCC teaching strategies that are culturally-responsive
  3. Improve teachersí knowledge of and implementation of GCC education resources
  4. Increase studentsí knowledge of GCC

The CYCLES team includes leadership in teachers' professional development and inquiry-based instruction, local cultural expertise in STEM instruction and GCC research. NCED is a consortium of eight partner universities, the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The project team also includes the Minnesota Planetarium Society (Halverson) and utilizes their ExlporaDome for 3D visualization of NASA data sets for both teachers during the summer workshops and students during the academic year. CYCLES reflects the similarities between Native American and scientific explorations of the natural world as interconnected and cyclic processes.


Earth, Fire, Air, Water, and Life, which represent components of the native medicine wheel, will be the central concepts around which the project explores aspects of Global Climate Change.

The research employs a formative evaluation study to provide evidences of the impact of the course on participant teachersí perceptions, conceptual knowledge and their pedagogical practices of climate change. It also aims at students learning of scientific knowledge of climate change and improvement of their socio cultural awareness of climate change as a benefit of teacher learning. Research questions to be answered by the project include:

  1. How does the program affect the teachersí conceptual understandings of climate change?
  2. How does the program affect the teachersí pedagogical practice of teaching climate change?
  3. How does the program affect the teachersí perceptions and practice of culturally relevant teaching of climate change for Native American students?
  4. How does teachersí professional development training benefit studentsí conceptual learning of climate change and their socio-cultural awareness of climate change?

See more about this project:

NCED team receives NASA funding for climate change education

CYCLES Website