Science, Math Texts and Activity Supplements

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Lakota Star Knowledge. Ron Goodman (and many elders and other Lakota scholars), Sinte Gleshka University Press, Rosebud, SD. $15. Paper, 8 x 11, 64 pages. Black and white star drawings.

All that AISES has to say about this book is it's a "fascinating research model for others to follow.". It forms the first half of my Aboriginal Astronomy unit here -- I have added many star maps and connections between what the elders said and today's astronomical knowledge, as well as teacher resources. In a way it's a good research model -- listen to elders, ask -- in another way not.

Some of the Sinte Gleshka people who worked on the project really didn't know enough astronomy to mediate or understand some of the things they were told, for one thing, and for another -- the book is awfully low-key about the critically important role played by the cache of astronomy papers left by Fr. Buechtel. He was a priest with a hobby of astronomy who was stationed on the rez many years, talked knowledgeably with many elders, and left papers with interview notes, star names, sky sketches and much else, to be found 50 years later. This is not a "model" anyone else can follow, unless they discover a similar cache of old astronomy notes kept by someone. You can find out more about it from my big section here, if interested.

In that section, there's info on how to buy the book direct from the source, Sinte Gleshka Bookstore. Maybe you should do that, rather than get it from AISES, because they'd like to get money together to reprint and update it (with better illustrations and diagrams).

I made a small original discovery which, if Lakota elders know, it is not recorded in the book. This is that the Lakota sacred circle of stars stands at the zenith at winter solstice, and at no other time; only then are all the sacred constellations visible. Spring equinoctian ceremonials, leading to Summer solstice (Sun Dance time) is discussed in the book, but winter solstice is ignored. But that -- December 20-21 -- must have been the time when those who knew taught younger people about the skies on windless nights, bundled against the cold, on a high hilltop far from the people's campfires.

This note isn't exactly a review, I've done extensive work with this book (the products of which are reflected on the Astronomy unit's web pages here) and I'll just say there's nothing else remotely like it for Native North American astronomy -- it's all stories about bears chasing girls up into the sky, and such. If you have any interest in astronomy, or in Native science, buy this book and study it carefully. If you are Lakota, this book gives you the sacred Black Hills of home (whatever their real estate status), glittering above in the night skies, wherever you are. No land cessions, no settlements, no Docket 74A, nothing can take these away from you -- if you know! Paula Giese

AMERICAN INDIAN ASTRONOMY, TEACHER GUIDE, TEACHER INFORMATION, STUDENT ACTIVITIES, Priscilla Buffalohead illustrated by Robert DesJarlait. Anoka-Hennepin Independent School district 11 Indian Education Program, 11299 Hanson Boulevard NW, Coon rapids, MN 55433, 612-422-5500, 1988, 30 pages paperback oversize, illustrated, materials list, $4.95; 5th grade

This is one of a series of 4 similar 5th-grade sourcebooks whose goal is to provide students with better understanding of the contributions of American Indian peoples to the collective intellectual achievements of humanity. " (The others -- Communications Systems, Timekeeping Devices, Toys and Games -- will be reviewed as and when obtained. The Astronomy booklet appears to hav been published before it was quite completed. No one is going to understand how the Bighorn Medicine Wheel (or others) works without better explanation of suntracking in relation to the seasons; similarly the concepts of equinox and solstice can be explained in relation to the sun's apparent path across th sky from rise to set, observed by Indians and everyone else, and this in turn can be related to the modern solar system model, with the earth's orbit and axial tilt. It was originally planned to do this, but apparently the project ran out of money before some of these units were really complete. Relevant materials will be found in my Aboriginal Astronomy unit here.

The unit contains some teacher instructions and brief presentations on the 1054 supernova that is now the Crab Nebula; solar observatory stone medicine wheels; the Anasazi Sun Dagger (a solar calendar from sometime when Chaco Canyon was inhabited by the Anasazi people, ancestors of today's Pueblo tribes, before its abandonment in the 13th century). None of these prsentations is sufficent for standalone teacher use. Also included are 2 star stories, a Cherokee legend of how the sun was created -- or stolen -- by Grandmother spider, and a Mesquakie (Fox) story of the origin of the constellation we call Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, the Big Bear.

Additional bibliographical, web, and materials resources for teachers who want to integrate Aboriginal astronomy with science will be found in my astronomy section here, there is a substantial teacher resource page. It is too bad this unit was not completed -- missing are many diagrams and explanations that were planned (in 1986-87) to relate the material about sun and stars to the concepts mentioned as objectives -- but the fact is the project ended before this unit could be completed that way. It has simply been printed and distributed -- and recently reprinted -- without the once-planned missing parts, especially diagrtams and explanations of the scientific and geometric concepts. It is still recommended, as an elementary starting-point sourcebook, that teachers can supplement with Native astronomy material available on this website. Teachers who don't have web access will have a harder time putting togethr this material, since there is no other place where it exists. Reviewed by Paula Giese


KEEPERS OF THE EARTH: NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana Street, Suite 350, Golden CO 8040, 800-992-2908.,234 pages, hardcover, B&W illustrations, map, index. $22. Teacher's Guide, $9.95, Grades 3-6. 1-55591-027-0

Superbly written and illustrated presentation of Native American philosophies about the environment. Joseph Bruchac has compiled a number of collections of myths and legends of the Abenaki and Iroquois peoples, all of them excellent. He is also a well-known storyteller; a librarian can feel secure about purchasing anything he has written or is associated with. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood

PG Note: Not really all ages, though older kids may enjoy the stories. This is for elementary school, topping out around Grade 5. Teachers or parents using it at home should also get the Teacher's Guide. See longer review. Reviewed by Paula Giese

KEEPERS OF THE ANIMALS: NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES AND WILDLIFE ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN, Joseph Bruchac and Michael J. Caduto, Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana Street, Suite 350, Golden CO 80401, 800-992-2908. 286 pages, many black and white illustrations mostly by Mohawk artist Kahiones (John Fadden) and his son David. ISBN 1-55591-088-2, $22,.95, teacher's Guide $9.95, ISBN 1-55591-088-2 Grades 1-6.

This continues the tradition of Bruchac's first Native-centered science book for elementary children. It combines stories, nature observation, and simple classroom activities. Discussion suggestions, relationships to art, music, dance, as well as many traditional stories make this a versatile integrated curriculum unit for younger children. Though the focus is on wildlife, city children are not left out of possible observations. Raccoons, house sparrows, grey squirrels, rats and mic, possums, and other animals found in cities (as vermin) and suburbs are discussed, and it is suggested bugs and spiders can be looked for (with good success in my apartment building, especially when it gets cold and they all head for here). Excellent integrated nature material, which always centers on the Native viewpoint, which Bruchac, a well-known Abenaki storyteller, knows how to convey intertribally to children. Reviewed by: Paula Giese

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KEEPERS OF LIFE: DISCOVERING PLANTS THROUGH NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES AND ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN, Joseph Bruchac and Michael J. Caduto, Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana Street, Suite 350, Golden CO 8040, 800-992-2908. 288 pages, hardcover, B&W illustrations, map, index. $22.95 Teacher's Guide, $9.95, Grades 3-8. 1-55591-186-2

STORYBOOKS: the stories -- 25 for each of the books, from many different tribes -- and Fadden illustrations -- are availabl separately from Fulcrum in sturdy $12.95 paperbacks.

There's a 2 cassettes set -- 2 hours -- of Bruchac reading (storytelling, actually) the stories from Keepers of the Earth, Keepers of the Animals, and Keepers of Life, for $16.95 each. See audio section of the Audio-Visual page, here.

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NATIVE AMERICAN GARDENING: STORIES, PROJECTS AND RECIPES FOR FAMILIES, Joseph Bruchac and Michael J. Caduto, Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana Street, Suite 350, Golden CO 8040, 800-992-2908. 158 pages, paperback, B&W illustrations,map, index. Native words glossary, notes. $15.95. 1-55591-148-X

Except for the fact that schools don't meet in summer, when gardens take the most work and come to harvest, this book is full of excellent school science gardening projects. Th book follows the wholistic approach found in the Bruchac-Caduto "Keepers" nativ-centered science series, with traditional stories from several tribes (there are fewer of these), explanations of traditional native gardening practices (and several dsigns for traditional 3 sisters gardens from several tribes), and othr activities. These activities range from cooking or drying what you grow to making gourd rattles and cornhusk dolls. The gardening portion of the book includes choosing a site (most people will have no choice -- backyard or nothing), planning and preparing the site, choosing seeds (with sources for getting traditional varieties from organizations who are trying to save these against the commercial hybrids that dominate the market), composting, combatting pests naturally, and other topics fairly conventional to most organic gardening books, but treated here with a Native flair. Th final chapter is instructions for drying corn, beans, and squash, and recipes for several traditional native foods using those 3 sisters. Some of the recipes are probably thought of as tradxitional, i.e. thy contain no salt or modern spices, and will probably be too bland for our tastes. It is unlikely this is the way traditional cooks prepared them but herbs and spices they used to use are no longer known or not readily available. The last 2 chapters -- Traditional native Gardening and Native Harvests, Meals, Recipes -- ends with a brtanching out section of furthr readings. ends with a section If you have some land where you can plant and care for a garden, this book is highly recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese

Books by Joseph Bruchac & Michael Caduto available from

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EDUCATING AMERICAN INDIAN / ALASKA NATIVE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY STUDENTS: GUIDELINES FOR MATHMATICS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS; AISES Conference document, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Books, 1630 30th Street, Bounder, CO 80301; 303-939-0023, FAX 303-939-81501995, 38 pp. From AISES, $3

In the spring of 1994, NSF funded AISES to sponsor a conference whose 30 participants developedd this document. I have extremly mixed feelings about the resulting guidelines document. The overwhelming majority of trhe participants apparently had no background in science or math themselves. Most of the guidelines are common sense kinds of things. The big focus seemed to be on curriculum development. That focus is deceptive. Identification of so-called "basrriers" to Indian successes in science and math boils down, if you are familiar with thereal situation in Indian education, to lack of money for everything from textbooks to labs to teacher training.

So these conference folks went and talked for a while and came up with curriculum development guidelines. Where's the guidelines for how to get and effectively use the money? That is what is needed M - O - N - E - Y. But what we got, instead, in Indian Ed, is huge budget cuts.

So, if you got it -- the money -- from someplace already, maybe these guidelines will be some kind of help, in case plain common sense didn't help you think of them already. But what it looks to me like is more like decoying Indian people into the idea that they could hire a couple people to write up some little units of traditional stories, let's say legends about constellations, legends about plants, and wham! they would have a "holistic science/math program." This is not true, it will only direct your attention away from the idea that you need about $250,000 (minimum) to get started equipping your (small) school with equipment, supplies and library, and quite a bit more than that for your high school. That doesn't include salaries. It's for stuff, appareatus, xpendable supplies, books, expendable workbooks and lab books, facility space. These guidelines will not help meet those real needs. Reading them may be exciting to some; for me it just makes me feel rather bitter. Yet it could also be useful in planning proposals that can attract grant money to implement a real science program with adequate facilities, lab equipment, computers, quality text and reading books. See longer review. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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SACAI Program Information SCIENCE OF ALCOHOL CURRICULUM FOR AMERICAN INDIAN STUDENTS (SACAI): TEACHER UNIT, American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), 184 pges, oversize paper-plastic spiral-bound, black and whit illustrations and diagrams. $24 plus videotape. Grades 7 - 10.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)-developed Science Study program on alcohol abuse, Descriptive overview of content, on their web page, linked-to here. The curriculum unit -- which would probably take only a few weeks to teach, there are actually only 4 lesson units (though some will take more than one period) tackles alcoholism among Native youth in a variety of ways, including some simple hands-on experiments showing (by analogy, not actually) how alcohol behaves in the body and some of the physical damage it does. The units are Alcohol, the Body and the Community; Depriving Energy; Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; and the Brain.

Though titled Teacher Unit, thre are no student workbooks; student materials are to be photocopied from this, which makes the choice of a flimsy plastic spiral binding an even poorer choice (3-hole punched in a binder would have been best). . Worksheets, materials list, videotape (not included, but required). Pre- and post-tests that seem almost farcical in their question-begging simplicity. All evaluations using these tests should turn out fantastically successful for anyone who cares to bother. Not very scientific! Whether it would have any effects on kids' drinking there's no way to tell. It's said to be in use at more than 200 schools, presumably with large Indian student populations.

Check the AISES web page for an overview of the contents and approach.

A comment on the unit's present status: It is to be hoped this is still a preliminary version, because there remains a lot to do to make this a smooth, self-contained teaching unit. For one, the binding: it is that spiral plastic you can do yourself (if you have the machine) but which breaks up quickly. It is very impractical for repeated classroom use, particularly as teachers must photocopy many worksheets from it. These materials should be supplied in a 3-ring binder. Secondly, the procedures for the teacher can be figured out, but they are not clearly presented in an independent section. In the procedures section of the experiments lessons, there are remarks about gathering the children in groups, handing them eyedroppers and such -- and that's it! You have to read the kids' worksheets to figure out what they're actually supposed to do. From my own experience as author and editor of extensive K-12 science-math curricula, I know teachers don't like this, become confused, fumble around. Procedures for busy teachers have to be clearly written, and clearly separated for them from the student materials.

I emphasize that the unit is workable as is now, and since there is nothing comparable available anywhere, can be heartily recommended. But it is to be hoped that a professional editor -- experienced in organizing, not just spelling -- will be hired to prepare the final version for the press. It is to be wished also that in addition to the one externally-purchased video, this curriculum would require use and student discussions of Kifaru Productions' excellent, award-winning video "The Red Road to Sobriety", There is also some good Young Adult reading material which, though not Indian-centered is very well written and has been found to involve Indian teens well.

A list of inexpensive materials -- eyedroppers, graduated cylinders, red yarn, ziplock bags, sugar cubes (3 lbs!) and a videotape, "Babies in Waiting" (see AV section here) nust be purchased from sources other than AISES. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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HANDS ON, MINDS ON SCIENCE ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, 1630 30th Street, Suite 301, Boulder, CO 80301; 303-935-0023

A variety of culture-based science activities (study of the winds, making a yucca shampoo, etc) developed for elementary students by AISES. Very brief descriptive overview on their web page of the curriculum materials, which have to be ordered by mail or phone from AISES. Not in their current catalog. Rather briefly and poorly described on their web page, $11.95

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WATERDRUM SCIENCE, Carolyn A. Petty, Paper, 8 x 11, 300 pages, $27.50 Black and white illustrations. Teacher resource book for Native-centered elementary science, Grades 4 -6.

I haven't seen this final published version, but a lot of looseleaf materials in development have been around Minneapolis Indian schools for years. I used some in 1993-94 at Heart of the Earth AIM Survival School, apparently AISES was involved in the development; we tried (without success) to obtain more uptodate versions than the random assortment we had. I should mention a certain problem: The Little Boy Water Drum is sacred to the Anishinaabeg Midewiwin Society, and there should be no implications that this is the water drum being used for experiments. (There are other water drums just played for fun and dancing.) There was some implications of that in the rough draft material; a school staff person who is also a Mide elder found it offensive and felt we should not use the material in our classes. But I have not seen the final version. A non-review here (because I don't have the actual book), This was apparently developed over several years by AISES, and is available only through them, as far as I know. It does not seem to be part of the hands-on minds-on science curriculum materials that are very briefly described on the AISES web pages (see above). Paula Giese

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NATIVE AMERICAN MATHMATICS, Edited by Michael P. Closs; University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713; 512-471-7233; 1986, first paperback printing, 1996, 431 pages, reference bibliography, contributor notes, 0-292-71185-9

This book contains 13 rather technical articles, whose publication here was supported by the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics. Most of the articles contain number systems -- really, mostly number words, with occasional notes on what might have been early linguistic forms suggesting simple tribal arithmetics. The strongest suggestion, however, is that arithmetical developments occurred only after contact with fur traders, and involvement in trade, made some such reckonings necessary; they were wholly unnecessary to hunting-gathering cultures in small bands. Similarly, measurement, with objective units never developed, as measurements with context-dependent relative units such as handspans, armlengths, or number of sleeps to determine distances, sufficed for constructions made entirely by the individual, who built what he or his family needed, and not communicated among construction or tool-making specialists. People who traveled well-known territories but did not claim land as property had no need to measured nor map and did not develop abstract (context-free) units nor techniques for doing so.

These articles may be of some use to those who want to develop cultural curriculum supplementary units on mathematics. This has already been done for Mayan numeration and some kinds of calculations done in their base-20 system. It will be much harder for the developer to make use of information in the other articles, because these really consist more of linguistics (numeration words) than anything else.

"Cultural Ecology of Mathematics: Ojibway and Inuit Hunters" shows a world view in which there existed many different forms of measurement that are context-dependent. For example, a distance measure of "5 sleeps" depends on the weather or terrain covereed, rather than on linear distance as we conceptualize it now. (Mathematics, numbers, measurement units and the logic of western mathematics are context-free, not context-dependent.)

The hunter-gatherer system of thought in J. Peter Denny's exposition is fascinating, and may suggest some exercises and teaching materials that could be developed, though considerable effort will be required, because teaching development also has to use such exercises to lead into non-relative measuremnt units. They key concept for context-free units, number, and measurement development appears to be communication. If I am building a canoe, or teaching someone who is physically present, measuremnt units which are all body-spans can work. If I must communicate this information to someone not physically present, objective or abstract units, independent (context-free) 0of a particular person's particular bodily measurements, must be agreed upon by both parties and methods that work, whoever carries them out can then develop.

"In search of MesoAmerican Geometry" by Francine Vinette is suggestive that on some Mayan sculptures, an aesthetic principle of organization that might have been to that culture as the Greek Golden Section organization is to western architectural and sculptural organization. She uses very few examples, and publishs only a couple of diagrams and no measurements or photographs. Mathematical ratios, if any, are not discoverable, and in any event have no significance if found in only a handful of objects. Reviewed bvy Paula Giese

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NATIVE AMERICAN ROCK ART: MESSAGES FROM THE PAST, Yvette La Pierre, illustrated by Lois Sloan. Thomasson-Grant, Inc., One Morton Drive, Suite 500, Charlottesville, VA 22903-6806, (800) 999-1780, Illustrated, glossary, list of sites to visit. 48 pp., $16.95 cloth. 1-56566-064-1

La Pierre has produced a thorough, easy to read, and visually engaging investigation of pictographs and petroglyphs that are found in nearly every state in the U.S. and province of Canada. Included are explanations of how they were created, how paints were made to give them color, how they are dated, the various meanings associated with particular shapes, and problems with erosion and vandalism. Ages: 10+ Grade: A-. Reviewed by: Steve Brock

PG NOTE: This company had undergone some mergers.Calling them recently, I couldn't find anyone there who knew anything about this or any other educational materials or books they publish, or once published, or some now dissolved entity did. Somebody else is distributing them (but no one knew who). Too bad, because it sounds like a uniquely valuable and interesting addition to Native-centered science, especially relating to dating, weathering. Can't find it in any local libraries, either.

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THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN (K-8), developed and tested by the National Sciences Resource Center, and marketed by Carolina Biological Supply Company, Burlington, NC, 800-334-5551. Ask for the K-8 science program catalog (and get their big main catalog -- only sent to schools, not individuals -- while you're at it).

The best integrated, multi-disciplinary, hands-on science for young people. Should in fact be started in K and continued through 8, but you can pick up on it anywhere along the line.

Expensive -- for every year, there are 4-8 units, and a rather expensive set of materials with each. Some are permanent, some are refillables (and you can order just the refills). Roughly, it will cost about $1800 per grade to start this program (less in the lower elementary, considerably more at Middle School level). Yet the developers have made huge efforts to find materials and supplies to reduce the costs -- for example, the kids make their own river-terrain combo acquarium and terrarium (from the kit materials supplied). The ecosystem is balanced, no pumps are used. When I revise the teacher science/math resources, I'll have much more to say about this. Send for the catalogs, dream, scheme, write proposals, and try to budget for at least some of it. While you'r on the phone getting those catalogs, ask for their Cabisco Math Manipulatives catalog too. Neat stuff for all ages from primary through advanced h.s. student math. Abstractions rooted in such touchable realities are meaningful and they last. Paula Giese

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Webmistress --Paula Giese.Text and graphics copyright 1996

CREDITS: The eagle started life as a real golden eagle photographed as he was being released from the Minnesota Raptor Center, much worked over with graphics utilities for the iridescent abalone-shell wing effect.

Last Updated: Friday, May 17, 1996 - 5:14:05 AM