A visit to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock has inspired a new STEAM curriculum for youth. Through a multicultural collaboration with indigenous educators, artists and particle physicists students will explore the correlations of indigenous cosmology to modern science through art and social practice.  The curriculum will focus on our human connection to nature, science and technology through diverse worldviews.

As an artist and Americorp VISTA working at the intersection of art, science, technology and education I focus on youth, inspiring them to discover who they are and their connection to their community and the world. So when I heard that Standing Rock was started by youth, supported by elders and sustained by over 300 tribal nations and countless activist organizations from around the world, I felt called to action. When I got there elders told me they felt it was their prayers calling people. I believe that Standing Rock is an important and transformational movement. I wanted to go in person to meet and support the youth leaders from the International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) and I had heard from Taos Pueblo drum maker, Christopher Lujan that someone had started a school at the camp for the over 200 kids living there. So I got together with Chris , Jason Rodriguez of ARTAOS and teacher, Megan Avina Bowers at TISA (Taos Integrated School of the Arts) and we designed a workshop for the kids which resulted in student-created banners which I delivered to the young water protectors.  They were so open and appreciative of this gift from the kids that they even took the time to record a video message for them. What impressed me most is that they are not just fighting the pipeline, they are focused on the idea of building a Just Transition Community grounded in prayer and modeling to the youth a new way to be in this world. I saw how they were focused on educating and raising awareness to the change that needs to happen to protect our natural and cultural resources for future generations, while understanding the important connection between ecological diversity and cultural diversity.

The media has not been covering this story, so the youth has taken to Facebook live streaming, drone footage from the front lines, and creating YouTube videos to communicate their message. The youth of Standing Rock are using the new Facebook live stream technology and free social media platform to  shake up the world and I came back wanting to continue this work in our schools and communities.

While there, I met Steve Tamayo, one of the Lakota teachers at the Oceti Sakowin school managed by Teresa Dzieglewicz who was living at the camp. Steve was sharing Lakota traditions while teaching kids how to build a Tipi.  I told him about a project I started in 2009 called Projecting Particles, collaborating with scientists at CERN, home of the particle accelerator in Switzerland. The workshops combine projection art and particle physics to explore new understandings of the universe.  We saw some fascinating correlations between traditional Lakota cosmology and modern particle physics.  We are now collaborating with CERN physicist, Dr. Steven Goldfarb,  to design a curriculum that explores these correlations through STEAM youth projects and a community lecture series. We hope that increasing understanding of radically new science concepts while building appreciation for the significance of indigenous cosmology and worldview can provide students with a meaningful, collaborative and unifying way to explore and understand the world around us.

Follow this blog to see how this project evolves.