In December of 2019, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) sought Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) funding for the GVSC Indian Tribal/Department of Defense Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) K-12 Summer Camp Program. During this process GVSC stated that, in order to show some measure of return on investment of OSD DoD STEM K-12 funding, it would work with its partners to conduct educational research to explore the benefits of teaching STEM subject matter to Michigan K-12 students. GVSC reached out to the Ojibwa Tribe and Harvard University to form a team to understand student performance by conducting a case study. This case study focused on Tribal K-12 students who attended GVSC’s Indian Tribal/DoD STEM K-12 Summer Camps.
Harvard University, then Harvard College, founded in 1636, was donated money at the time from the New England ‘English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’ on the specified conditions that the College cater not only to Englishmen, but also to American Indian students. By 1655, five Native American students attended the college. Harvard University has maintained a diverse student body for 384 years.
The GVSC/Ojibwa Tribe DoD STEM K-12 case study proposal submitted to the Harvard University Native American Program Office and Education Department in Jan. of 2020 was one of 30 received for consideration. On Feb. 2, 2020, Harvard University informed GVSC and the Ojibwa Tribe that the joint GVSC/Ojibwa Tribal proposal submitted was one of the final 10 selected that would be assigned graduate researchers. This led to GVSC, the Ojibwa Tribe and Harvard University all conducting educational research together on Michigan K-12 student performance.
The current GVSC Michigan DoD STEM K-12 Program every year executes the following K-12 academic projects throughout the State of Michigan:
- Multiple Indian Tribal/DoD STEM K-12 Summer Camps and other Summer Camps and Science Ship Cruises,
- Multiple DoD STEM K-12 after school learning sessions during the school year,
- Teaching of physics, chemistry, applied mathematics, robotics, etc. to more than 500 Michigan JROTC Cadets at various JROTC DoD STEM 9th-12th grade summer camps, field trips to Army/DoD Labs and University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, US Army GVSC Automotive Research Conferences, and in-school and after school learning sessions,
- DoD STEM K-12 teacher professional development courses to enhance teaching methodologies and curriculums at colleges and universities around the nation,
- DoD STEM K-12 field trips and lab tours along with judging of K-12 students STEM contests and research competitions,
- GVSC managers, scientists, engineers, and staff play an active role in DoD STEM K-12 events, projects and summer camps.
The premise of the GVSC Michigan DoD STEM K-12 Program is based on an asset-based community model to create systems where public school districts, colleges, universities, Tribes, U.S. Congress, local clubs and groups (Boy and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, etc.), other local, state and Federal agencies along with private industry invest time and labor together to produce more American scientists, engineers and STEM professionals. The Michigan DoD STEM K-12 Program engaged in its development phase by assisting the Native programs to build on their strengths rather than focusing on overall deficits of education.
The program incorporated many of the steps identified by John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight’s (1993) Building Communities From the Inside Out. Kretzmann and McKnight identified a series of steps, which applied the purpose of community development. These steps included identifying the strengths of the individual communities, schools, and their capacities. It focused on becoming involved with the community and their development of strategies to build upon their problem solving capacities, not focusing on minimizing the role outside of forces contributed to help create the current circumstance, nor promote the idea that only outside resources are needed to fix their situation, but to foster investment, creativity, control and hope. It was also always on the mission of relationship building and rebuilding between communities, individuals and the program. Throughout the existence of the Michigan DoD K-12 STEM program, GVSC, Indian Tribal Governments and Colleges, Colleges and Universities, Public School Districts, JROTC Cadet Command, University of Windsor along with private industry have incorporated these steps to achieve the STEM K-12 educational results of the project.
The camps began in 2010 and have still continued every summer since. GVSC has worked with Indian Nations since 1994 providing their college and K-12 level students “infra-structure” assistance (career advice, technical conference attendance, teaching of K-12 STEM subjects, etc.). This recently completed case study showed that K-12 student’s math and science academic performance was greater by the students who attended the subject summer camps versus those students who did not. Harvard University accepted the joint GVSC/Ojibwa Tribal educational research case study proposal on Feb. 2, 2020. The case study was completed and presented to OSD, Ojibwa Tribal Government Officials, and Harvard University Faculty at Harvard University on April 28, 2020. More combined STEM K-12 educational research efforts are being planned by GVSC for the near future.