The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) at Stony Brook University received a grant from the Keck Foundation in 2017 for connecting traditional indigenous and western science sources of knowledge. The program, extended the successful Hawai’i SENCER State strategy to Alaska and four state pilot projects, advancing robust partnerships between indigenous peoples and local formal and informal educators locations in California, Arizona, and Montana.

Within each project, local environmental and health issues provide context for inquiry-based learning that transcends perceived conflicts between indigenous, local, and “Western” knowledge systems. Partnerships in each state between indigenous peoples and educators have thus, collaborated to improve educational outcomes for all students, promote cultural understanding, and foster long-term collaborations on issues of common concern.

SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities), which connects civic issues to STEM content, encourages the incorporation of different perspectives, pushes students to critically analyze preconceptions, and actively engages learners in authentic research.

Cultural collaboration is not merely the awareness of traditions other than one’s own. It requires a deep understanding of and appreciation for the strengths that multiple perspectives bring to solving the complex, contested issues facing all communities. This includes recognizing the impact of past injustices and conflicts that indigenous people have experienced as well as a grounding in the cultural connections of relationships with the environment, traditions, and sacred spaces.

Now in its 3rd year of funding, The Transcending Barriers Project is preparing to showcase these supported collaborations between indigenous peoples and local & informal educators from Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, California, and Montana in June 2020.

The partnerships from each grantee connecting indigenous culture and western science sources of knowledge each offer unique place-based perspectives and ways of working together. All reflect a biocultural approach sensitive to traditional culture and local context. The Montana Grand Challenge Institute will synthesize the lessons learned from this Keck Foundation-funded project and serve as a opportunity to extend the dialogue and exploring potential to continue these partnerships within this consortium extend potential to others – particularly to the other 10 tribes from across the state of Montana, as our specially invited guests.

Transcending Barriers Leadership

Keck Program Leadership

  • Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Eliza Reilly, executive director of NCSCE and Research Professor at Stony Brook University
  • Co-PIs: Dr. Lawrence Duffy (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Dr. Robert Franco (Kapi’olani Community College), and Dr. Ulla Hasager (University of Hawai’i at Manoa)
  • Chair of Advisory Board: Dr. Amy Shachter (Santa Clara University)