MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s spectrUM Discovery Area and We Are Montana in the Classroom initiative will share hands-on activities at the Ronan Family Science Night from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at Ronan Event Center, located at Ronan Middle School.
The annual science night draws hundreds of children and community members each year. At this year’s event, spectrUM and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Education Department will bring the Kwul ’I’tkin Maker Truck, a mobile makerspace featuring making and tinkering activities that weave together STEM and culture.
Funded by a National Science Foundation EAGER grant, the Kwul ’I’tkin Maker Truck was co-created by CSK Tribal Education, spectrUM, spectrUM’s SciNation advisory group and tribal elders.
Role models from UM’s We Are Montana in the Classroom initiative will share hands-on activities designed to inspire students of all ages about higher education and career pathways. Sherrill Brown, associate professor in UM’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and director of the UM Drug Information Service, will lead an activity in which visitors make and take home their own lip balm. Patricia Duce, a lecturer in UM’s computer science department, will guide visitors in designing their own computer program. Rosalyn La Pier, associate professor in environmental studies, will lead a native plant seeding activity, and Aaron Thomas, associate professor in chemistry and director of Indigenous Research and STEM Education at UM, will lead hands-on chemistry activities.
Throughout the year, both in school and out, spectrUM and its SciNation advisory group collaborate on an array of programs designed to power a homegrown, Native STEM workforce on the Flathead Reservation. In addition to Family Science Nights, programming includes a Science Learning Tent at the Arlee Celebration and Elmo’s Standing Arrow Powwow, “Science Bytes” that embed hands-on STEM activities and role models at summer free meal sites, the Kwul ’I’tkin Maker Truck, and on May 19 a Tech Challenge, part of a U.S. Department of Education-funded collective-impact effort led by Salish Kootenai College.
SpectrUM and SciNation’s innovative, collective-impact approach have garnered awards from the Montana Indian Education Association, the Noyce Foundation, the Simons Foundation and the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science.
“SpectrUM and the Broader Impacts Group take a community-based, co-creative approach to all of our efforts,” said Holly Truitt, director of spectrUM and BIG. “We’re finding that when we work collectively with like-minded partners, we can multiply our impact.”
Now in its 10th year, spectrUM Discovery Area is UM’s hands-on science center, serving more than 200,000 Montanans annually through in-museum and statewide mobile programming. We Are Montana in the Classroom connects Montana K-12 students with UM faculty members and graduate students, with the goal of putting students on the fast track to higher education and fulfilling careers.
We Are Montana in the Classroom and spectrUM are part of BIG, which takes a community-based, co-creative approach to engaging with rural and tribal communities across Montana, with deep collective-impact initiatives in Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley and on the Flathead Reservation.
To date, BIG programs have reached K-12 students in three-quarters of Montana’s counties and on all seven of the state’s American Indian reservations. BIG is supported by an array of local and national funding sources, including the National Science Foundation, Montana NSF EPSCoR, NASA, the U.S. Department of Education, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Jane S. Heman Foundation and the Martin Family Foundation.