Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum

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What is Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum?

Where to begin?

Integrating Traditional Native Knowledge and Science

Cultural Relevance

Involving Cultural Experts

Traditional Knowledge, Environmental Assessment, and the Clash of Two Cultures

Elders in the Classroom

Topics of Cultural Significance

Cultural Standards


Standards Based

Summary Guidelines for Standards-Based Units

Correlate Local Knowledge with Science Standards

Alaska Science Performance Standards

Topics to Standards: A Discrepant Event

Best Practices

Traditional Yup’ik Learning

Cultural Relevance and the Learning Cycle Model

Share Knowledge

Integrated Study, Traditional Camps and Science Fairs


Promising Assessment Strategies

Alaska Science Performance Standards: Assessment Ideas


Curriculum Resources


AKRSI Unit Building Assessment Rubric

Lure Construction and Ice Fishing with Elder Involvement

Winds and Weather Sample


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
907-474-1957 fax
© 2000 by Sidney Stephens. All Rights Reserved.
First printing 2000 by the Alaska Science Consortium
Second revised printing, 2003 by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Permission granted to photocopy for educational purposes.

Since 1996, the Alaska Science Consortium has been working with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI) and the Alaska Department of Education to help develop standards-based, culturally relevant curriculum that effectively integrates indigenous and Western knowledge around science topics. This work has been generously funded by the AKRSI project through a National Science Foundation grant. It has involved teachers, Elders, Native community leaders, agency personnel, and educational consultants and has taken many forms. This handbook represents some of the thinking and products that have resulted from this slowly evolving and highly collaborative process. It is hoped that some of these ideas prove helpful to you as you begin or continue similar work. We are most grateful to the AKRSI program for support of these efforts and to AKRSI staff for their ongoing dedication, helpfulness, and vision. For a more complete look at the purpose, accomplishments and resources funded and gathered by AKRSI, check out their website at


The information and insights contained in this document will be of interest to anyone involved in bringing local knowledge to bear in school curriculum. Drawing upon the efforts of many people over a period of several years, Sidney Stephens has managed to distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways. Coupled with the "Native Ways of Knowing" section in the Alaska Math/Science Curriculum Frameworks document and the Alaska Science Performance Standards, this handbook will provide teachers invaluable assistance with the task of developing and teaching "culturally responsive science curriculum."

There is mounting evidence that curricular and teaching practices that link schooling to the surrounding cultural and physical environment produce positive results on all indicators of student and school performance. This handbook reflects the most current pedagogical principles that move educational practice from teaching about (italics) culture as another discrete subject to teaching through (italics) the local culture as a way to bring depth, breadth and significance to all aspects of the curriculum.
We wish to express our appreciation to Sidney and the Alaska Science Consortium for venturing with us into this previously uncharted terrain and bringing new insights to bear on long-standing issues in Alaskan education. The results of this collaboration have exceeded our expectations and will be of benefit to educators throughout Alaska and beyond. Thank you to all who have contributed to this undertaking.

Ray Barnhardt,
Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
and Frank Hill
Co-Directors, Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative

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