POSOH’s approach is collaborative, interdisciplinary and multicultural.

POSOH’s approach is collaborative, interdisciplinary and multicultural. In addition, it is multifaceted and designed as a systemic approach that addresses five overarching goals:

GOAL 1: Strengthen the K-16 education system – especially at underserved schools – by supporting teacher learning to grow expertise in:

  • Matter, energy and ecological science concepts
  • Both traditional and scientific ways of learning about and explaining the natural world 
  • Pedagogical approaches for supporting student-led research and investigations to learn about the natural world that take into consideration technical, socio-cultural and scientific perspectives

GOAL 2: Strengthen the connections across the K-16+ educational system in our region to increase the number and diversity of students from rural and Tribal communities who are interested in and have strong competencies in traditional western science and traditional environmental knowledge

GOAL 3: Increase the number of students who can identify solutions to problems and opportunities by considering multiple perspectives and work creatively in teams and present evidence-based solutions in a clear and concise manner.

GOAL 4: Increase the number and diversity of students from rural and Tribal communities who apply for and are accepted into internship programs or other independent advanced science learning opportunities in bio-energy based industries or research programs.

GOAL 5: Disseminate widely the POSOH model, instructional materials, and best practices for rural and Tribal communities to educate and become a valued part of the Nation's workforce that is addressing and strengthening the bio-energy value chain.

POSOH addresses these five goals primarily through four focused activities that encompass both formal and informal science teaching and learning opportunities:

  1. Collaborative curriculum design and development of POSOH science units for middle and high school grade levels
  2. Co-facilitation of teacher professional development where POSOH science units are taught to teachers from area public and Tribal schools
  3. Development of a Sustainability Club for high school students that takes place in spring and summer at the Sustainable Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation
  4. Development of innovative undergraduate internships that involve collaboration among UW-Madison students who are primarily from the Menominee Nation area, undergraduates at the College of Menominee Nation, and Sustainability Club members 

Decolonizing Local Capacity: Participatory Curriculum Development in Culturally Relevant STEM Education for Tribal and Public Schools in Northeast Wisconsin (42:12)

This video is not a comprehensive overview of the P.O.S.O.H. Project, but instead provides an in-depth look at the processes and thinking associated with the curriculum development aspects of POSOH. Several design team members describe how they personally and professionally see the past, present, and future of Native Americans in mainstream and tribal education. Different stakeholders discuss challenges and lack of opportunities faced by modern Native American youth in both public and tribal educational institutions and how the P.O.S.O.H approach attempts to break down barriers to advance more equitable participation in STEM education for Native American youth. 

POSOH’s Approach to Curriculum Development

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POSOH staff and students, local teachers, community members, culture keepers, scientists and education researchers have all participated in the collaborative design and subsequent development of three place-based and culturally relevant units for middle and high school grades. The POSOH approach to place-based curriculum development grew out of Lauffer’s experiences in a previous project that involved designing context-specific science inquiry units for use in Los Angeles Unified School District in which the conceptualization of the learning outcomes is a collaborative experience, facilitated by the separation of the overall process into two stages: design and then development.

POSOH’s collaborative curriculum design and development began in June 2011 with the first of three annual, 4-day intensive Design Institutes. These institutes had two primary design outcomes:

  1. Collaborative production of a graphic representation of the "conceptual flow" or learning sequence that is synthesized from the Team's vision for the teaching and learning experience (in #1) and the Big Ideas in #2, which will frame the unit, and
  2. Create of a set of agreed-upon working guidelines regarding how the process of co-designing curriculum will unfold (this agreement is made among all Design Team members, the facilitator, and curriculum developers who are involved).

These two outcomes then guide the development of the learning materials such that they stay true to the Design Team's vision while also managing the actual logistics of producing a unit that reflects accurate scientific conceptions and draws on current educational research.

In addition to these design goals and outcomes, the processes that are involved in designing the units are explicitly intended to create professional learning communities. These learning communities—comprised of diverse stakeholders who share both an interest in improving science education and the context of their “place”—learn together and create a vision and commitment to how teaching and learning science needs to look and feel in their community. This more subtle goal for POSOH’s Design Teams honors the power of relationship-building and co-construction for creating sustainable systemic change. Together Design Team members grappled with challenging questions, including:

  • How do our Menominee and Oneida colleagues want the relationship between science and culture to be represented?
  • How and for what purposes do our Menominee and Oneida colleagues want their youth to be educated?
  • What does culturally relevant science curriculum mean and look like in the specific context of POSOH?

Over the past four years, as we actively engaged in curriculum design and development, we simultaneously reflect on our processes, explicitly treating these processes as one of the essential products we are producing for dissemination. From our experiences, a “framework” is evolving for the collaborative design and development of place-based and culturally relevant curricula, using an approach that supports both educators and their communities to co-construct a strong vision and goals for science teaching and learning.

POSOH’s Approach to Informal Science Education

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Our Project’s primary efforts for reaching learners through informal science education are focused on the development of an out-of-school club for high school students and their undergraduate mentors called the Sustainability Leadership Cohort (SLC). This work is centered in and directed by the Sustainable Development Institute of the College of Menominee Nation.

The goal of the SLC Program is to ignite interest and broaden understanding of sustainability through science-, technology-, engineering- and mathematics-related experiences. The Program is committed to respecting cultural values and encouraging holistic thinking. SLC will provide students the tools and skills to be innovative leaders and positive change agents for people and our planet. The SLC will provide a hands-on, non-lecture style environment that allows students to discover, question, explore, communicate, and Science/Math/Technology-related fields in an unconventional manner that promotes critical thinking and leadership skills. 

The SLC Program serves as a stepping stone for students to discover Science/Math/ Technology-related careers and interact with people and professionals of all ages who walk this path. SLC participation will empower students so they may one day serve as leaders and positively influence their classmates, schools, and communities.

POSOH’s Approach to Professional Development

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Co-constructing professional learning communities is the primary goal for POSOH’s teacher professional development. Our Project’s approach to building a strong cadre of professional development providers aligns with the five “Components of Professional Learning Communities” that Hord and Sommers identify (2008):

  1. Shared Beliefs, Values, and Vision
  2. Shared and Supportive Leadership
  3. Collective Learning and Its Application
  4. Supportive Conditions
  5. Shared Personal Practice

We strive to align the learning experiences that POSOH supports for adults with the vision and goals that we have for area youth. Further, our teacher professional development designed to support professional learning among both teachers and those who facilitate the institutes, intentionally striving to build capacity for the work to continue long after the POSOH Project’s funding sunsets.