Archive for Thursday, February 28, 1991


February 28, 1991


Walter Smith, a professor in Kansas University's School of Education, will have to make some tough decisions in the next few weeks.

Smith, professor of curriculum and instruction, is the director of the Math and Science Teachers for Reservation Schools project, a series of summer workshops for educators who work with Native American students.

In the past, supply met demand. But this year Smith will have to turn away about one educator for every educator he accepts for the MASTERS project.

"It seems to be enjoying success," Smith said during an interview Tuesday in his Bailey Hall office.

A $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the MASTERS project on the KU campus for the next three summers. Thirty-five first-year participants will be accepted each summer, and a dozen second- and third-year returning students will participate each summer.

SMITH SAID the project originated in 1985, when a series of two-week workshops were held at Haskell Indian Junior College. Smith said there was too much ground to cover in two weeks, so organizers sought funds from the NSF to offer an eight-week program.

Kindergarten through ninth-grade teachers will participate in the project. Smith said the educators come from Bureau of Indian Affairs schools as well as public schools across the nation.

About 40 percent of the teachers who participate in the MASTERS workshops are Native American themselves, Smith said.

He said the project seeks to improve Native American education by taking into consideration the Native American culture. Smith said many educators don't realize English is often a new language for Native American students.

Smith also said Native Americans sometimes learn material that isn't always necessarily relevant to their community culture. The goal of the MASTERS project is to help teachers provide Native American students a better math and science education while being sensitive to their traditional beliefs.

"IT'S SORT of our little piece of the action," Smith explained. "We know there's no way we're going to solve all of the problems."

Smith said he has been pleased with the quality of educators who've participated in the workshops in the past, and he said project organizers have learned a great deal from working with them.

The application period for this summer ends Friday. To apply, educators must be recommended by their principal or other such supervisor, must write an essay about their math and science teaching styles and provide evidence that they plan to continue educating Native Americans.

Cleo Charging, who teaches on a reservation in North Dakota, hopes she will be accepted for the summer. Charging, a Native American, participated in the 1989 workshop.

"I think it's a wonderful program," said Charging, who teaches math in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. "It made a wonderful addition to my classroom. It changed my whole way of teaching."

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