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engineering design, problem solving, STEM education, culturally relevant curriculum


This study presents an out-of-school problem-solving lesson we designed for American Indian students using a culturally relevant STEM topic. The lesson was titled “Shelter Design for Severe Weather Conditions.” This shelter design lesson was developed based on an engineering design allowing us to integrate STEM topics within a traditional indigenous house-building context. This problem context was used to encourage students to apply their prior knowledge, experience, and community/cultural practice to solve problems. We implemented the lesson at a summer program on an American Indian reservation. Using the lesson, this study explores how American Indian students use cultural knowledge and experience to solve a STEM problem. We collected student data through pre- and post-STEM content knowledge tests, drawings and explanations of shelter models on the students’ group worksheets, and classroom observations. We used interpretive and inductive methods to analyze the data. This study demonstrates that our culturally relevant, STEM problem-solving lesson helped the American Indian students solve a complex, real-world problem. This study examines how students’ prior experiences and cultural knowledge affect their problem-solving strategies. Our findings have implications for further research on designing problem-solving lessons with culturally relevant STEM topics for students from historically marginalized populations.

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Originally published as:

Kim, Young-Rae, & Nam, Youn-Kyeong. (2017). Exploring American Indian students’ problem-solving propensity in the context of culturally relevant STEM topics Journal of the Korean society of Earth Science Education, 10(1), 1–16. doi: 10.15523/JKSESE.2017.10.1.1

ⓒ The Korean Society of Earth Sciences Education . All rights reserved. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.