Iligsagvik College and Little Big Horn College Awarded Mini-Grants for Early Learners Indigenous STEM Programs

December 20, 2018, Denver, Colo.— Early childhood is a time of exploration. And Toyota and the American Indian College Fund have teamed up through a grant of $15,000 to two tribal colleges and universities to encourage children’s’ Indigenous STEM exploration.

The Toyota Early Childhood Education (ECE) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Initiative mini-grant will fund ECE STEM programs that incorporate communities, parents, and teachers at two tribal colleges: Iḷisaġvik College serving Barrow, Alaska, and Little Big Horn College, serving Crow Agency, Montana. Both were awarded $15,000 for a one-year program.

The Toyota ECE STEM Initiative mini-grant focuses on community-based programming at tribal colleges and integrating developmentally appropriate Indigenous STEM in partnership with a local Early Learning Center (ELC), Head Start, or Language Immersion Nest for the grant term of November 2018 through November 30, 2019.

About the Projects

Iḷisaġvik College’s Indigenous Education ECE STEM Project seeks to partner with Barrow Early Learning Center (BELC), serving 20 infants, toddlers, and their families and Nuiqsut Early Learning Center (NELC), serving approximately 10 young children and their families. With BELC’s current capacity for up to 20 infants and toddlers, approximately 62 young children are without early childhood services in Utqiaġvik alone, illustrating the need for additional early childhood educational opportunities for young children and families in the community.

The goals of Iḷisaġvik College’s ECE STEM Project include:

  • Improving teacher quality by building skill and expertise in the areas of Indigenous ECE STEM through workshops.
  • Increase access to curriculum by creating thematic kits containing equipment and materials necessary for supporting STEM/Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) ECE learning.
  • Improve family engagement through community-based events and activities focusing on STEM/STEAM for early childhood learners.
  • Strengthen learning opportunities for pre-service teachers enrolled in Iḷisaġvik College’s Indigenous Education Program through involvement in a semester-long Practicum experience and participation in community STEM events.
  • Strengthen learning opportunities for high school students attending Iḷisaġvik College’s Future Teachers Summer Camp with a three-day ECE STEM mini-camp.
  • Continue work initiated through this ECE STEM Project through ongoing partnerships and outreach to families and their children in the North Slope Borough.

Little Big Horn College Hinne Baape Itchik ECE STEM Family Learning Project is family-based ECE STEM learning with the Crow Language, designed for the 150 Apsaalooke children enrolled in the full-day and half-day language immersion classrooms in the three partner schools that include ten classrooms at Chickadee Lodge School, Hardin Public Schools, Crow Elementary School, and Crow Head Start.

The Native children and their families will focus on ECE STEM learning through science and math exploration games, activities and language learning kits which coincide with the STEM units Level I and II of the Biiluukaalilaah! Speak Crow! Language textbooks.

The project will implement 10 Hinne Baape Itchik ECE STEM Learning Sessions for the language immersion students from Pre-K to second grade and their families. The Coordinating Committee from the project partners will choose Apsaalooke speakers to facilitate STEM learning units with games and activities to learn the Apsaalooke vocabulary modules (context-based Apsaalooke word sets, phrases, and conversations). The STEM Crow learning kits will be accessible and portable for families to use at home and will also available for immersion ECE schools and classrooms on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “The College Fund appreciates our partnership with Toyota. Toyota supports inclusion and good citizenship which are both foundational to high quality early childhood education. Supporting the development of teachers who connect the traditional knowledge of tribal peoples with schooling helps all people move more fully toward healthy and productive lives. Our teachers and their students thank Toyota for its support.”