MISSOULA – The Montana Indian Education Association has bestowed its 2017 Special Recognition Award on SciNation, the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area’s advisory committee on the Flathead Indian Reservation. SciNation accepted the award at the MIEA’s annual conference in April.
“SciNation exemplifies the importance of education in the lives of Montana’s Indian people, and it is evident in the letters of support that they are committed to making a positive difference in Montana’s Indian education,” said Salena Beaumont Hill, a member of the MIEA board of directors.
Formed in 2014, SciNation co-creates spectrUM’s STEM and role-model engagement, including the Science Learning Tent at the Arlee Celebration, the Science Bytes program that embeds hands-on learning at free summer meal sites and an array of other programs that operate throughout the year in schools and community settings.
This summer, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Department and spectrUM will launch the Kwul I’t’kin Truck, a mobile makerspace funded by the National Science Foundation and co-created with SciNation and the Salish-Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Culture Committees. The Kwul I’t’kin Truck will weave conventional making and tinkering activities with traditional cultural practices of the CSK Tribes.
“The Kwul I’t’kin Truck will create an amazing platform for reservation youth to create at the same time that they experience historical tribal lessons from Native role models in their community,” said SciNation member Whisper Camel-Means, a wildlife biologist with the CSKT Natural Resources Department. “SciNation and spectrUM’s collaboration has been so inspiring to me as a community member and parent. We’re excited to continue growing this partnership in the future.”
SciNation’s members include Camel-Means, Stephanie Gillin (CSKT Natural Resources Department), Jessie Herbert-Meny (spectrUM), Cindi Laukes (UM Neural Injury Center), LeeAnna Muzquiz (CSK Tribal Health), Carey Swanberg (Ronan School District, retired), Bill Swaney (CSK Tribal Education) and Holly Truitt (spectrUM). Camel-Means, Gillin, Herbert-Meny, Swaney and Truitt are all UM alumni.
“SciNation is an amazing group of people who hail from all different organizations but share the vision of a homegrown, Native STEM workforce on the Flathead Reservation,” said Truitt, spectrUM’s director. “Collectively, we’re able to do profound, nationally recognized work that would not be possible without all of us around the table.”
SpectrUM and SciNation’s community-based partnership has previously garnered national awards from the Noyce Foundation, the Simons Foundation and the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science. Their initiatives have additionally been funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Montana National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Bonneville Power Administration, the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, GSK Science in the Summer and Montana No Kid Hungry.
UM’s spectrUM Discovery Area serves more than 55,000 Montanans annually. Since 2006, its mobile programming has reached over 52,000 people at 73 schools and four public libraries in 31 Montana counties and on all seven American Indian reservations in Montana. Thirty percent of the people spectrUM serves are Native American and over 75 percent live in rural communities.