Cover Image

Delivering Post-Secondary STEM Education on the North Slope, Alaska: Resilience and Adaptation

Linda Nicholas-Figueroa, Raymond Barnhardt, Lawrence Duffy, Kriya Dunlap, Mary van Muelken, Catherine Middlecamp


Prior to the 1960s, the majority of rural students seeking an education moved from their village to regional population hubs to attend boarding schools. Based on western curricula, boarding schools did not recognize traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Post-secondary education opportunities were only available in Fairbanks, Anchorage or Sitka, however, TEK or Alaska Native world views were not addressed in science course offerings. Upon gaining the right to provide education at the local level, the North Slope Borough (NSB) of Alaska incorporated Iñupiat educational philosophies into the educational system. The NSB, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, established Iḷisaġvik College, the only tribal college in Alaska. Now independently accredited, Iḷisaġvik offers 2-yr academic degrees and certificates in Allied Health programs, and is developing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. Iḷisaġvik seeks to broaden STEM education on the North Slope to meet the needs of employers and research in fields such as climate science. Courses bridging TEK and western science have been developed as a means of introducing STEM education to North Slope students. These courses include summer science camps, workshops, college curriculum, and internships. Relationships between local and visiting educators, scientists, community scholars, and Elders facilitate closing the TEK and western science gap.

Keywords: Science, Education, Tribal College, Alaska Native, Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Full Text:



AKRSI. (2005). Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative Final Report. From:

Barnhardt, R. (1991). "Higher Education in the Fourth World: Indigenous People Take Control." Canadian Journal of Native Education 18(2). From:

Barnhardt, R. (1999). Culture, Chaos and Complexity: Catalysts for Change in Indigenous Education. From:

Barnhardt, R. (2005). Culture, community, and place in Alaska Native education. Democracy and education. From: http://ankn.uaf/Curriculum/Articles/RayBarnhardt/CultureCommPlaceANE.html.

Barnhardt, R. and Harrison, B. (1993). Developing Tribal Education Strategies in Indigenous Communities. In Discourse: the Australian Journal of Educational Studies. From:

Barnhardt, R., Kawagley, O. A. (Eds.) (2010). Alaska Native Education Views From Within: Alaska Native Knowledge Network, Center for Cross-cultural Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

DeVoe, J. and Darling-Churchill, K. (2008). Status and trends in education of American Indians and Alaska Natives. (NCES 2008-08). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. From:

Dinero, S. (2004). The Politics of education provision in rural Native Alaska: the case of Yukon

Village, Race Ethnicity and Education. 7(4), 401-419. From:

Duffy, L., Middlecamp, C., Godduhn, A., and Fabbri, C. (2009). "Using Culture, Policy and Traditional Knowledge to Improve Engagement in Science Courses." American Journal of Applied Sciences. 6(8), 1560-1566.

Duffy. L., Godduhn, A., Fabbri, C., van Muelken, M., Nicholas-Figueroa, L., and Middlecamp, C. (2011a). Engaging Students in Science Courses: Lessons of Change from the Arctic. Interchange A Quarterly Review of Education. 42(2), 105-139.

Duffy, L., Godduhn, A., Dunlap, K., van Muelken, M., Middlecamp, C. (2011b) Sustainability and Chemistry: Key concepts in an Arctic focused interdisciplinary course. In Sustainability in the Chemistry Curriculum, (Middlecamp, C and Jorgenson, A eds) American Chemical Society Symposium, 1087 pp. 98-112. Washington, DC.

Gandara, P. (2005). Fragile futures: Risk and vulnerability among Latino high-achievers. Princeton, NJ: Policy Evaluation and Research center, Educational Testing Service. From:

Haycox, S. (2006). Alaska: An American Colony. University of Washington Press. 285 pp. Seattle, WA.

Hoffman, K., and Llagas, C. (2003). Status and trends in the education of blacks (NCES 2003-034). Project Officer: T.D. Snyder. National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. From:

Hopson, E. (1977). Inupiaq education. In R. Barnhardt (Ed.), Cross-cultural issues in Alaskan education (pp. 3-6). Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Knowledge Network, University of Alaska. From:

Hunt, B., and Harrington, C. (2008). The impending education crisis for American Indians: Higher education at the crossroads. Journal of Multicultural, Gender and Mineral Studies. 2(2) , 1-11. From:

Hussar, W. and Bailey, T. (2008). Projections of education statistics to 2017 (NCES 2008-078). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education. Washington, DC; U.S. Department of Education. From:

Learning Point Associates. (2004). All students reaching the top: Strategies for closing academic achievement gaps. Naperville, IL: North Central regional Educational Laboratory. From:

Mayor, F. (1994). United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization. From:

National Science Board. (2010). Higher education in science and engineering. In Science and engineering indicators 2010 (pp. 13). Arlington VA: National Science Foundation. From: http//

Shepro, C. (2010). The North Slope Borough Economic Profiles and Census Reports. From:

Sorenson, B. (2010). Alaska STEM Education and the Economy, Report on the Need for Improved Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Alaska. pp. 8. From:

Stephens, S. (2003). Handbook For Culturally responsive science curriculum. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Knowledge Network. From:

Swanson, C. (2004). Who graduates? Who doesn't? A statistical portrait of public high school graduation, class of 2001. Washingto, DC: The Urban Institute. From:

US Census Bureau. (2010). US Department of Commerce. From:



  • There are currently no refbacks.


To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

Copyright © Macrothink Institute   ISSN 2327-5499