Background: Less than 2% of natural science-degree holders in our community are indigenous community members, and less than .01% of the total population are employed in science related occupations. Academically, science in the CNMI Public School System (PSS) is struggling to meet student needs. Only 28% of CNMI 6th grade students are meeting national standards for science in the PSS compared with national average of 47%. In 2017, 667 out of 695 total enrolled 6th grade students participated in the ACT Aspire Test. A full 52% of these were categorized as “need support”. Additionally, the percentage increases as they progress into high school.
Project HOPE’s goal is to help increase scientific aptitude, natural resources knowledge, and marine science engagement through college students and community elders providing an intergenerational exchange of ocean stewardship practices to CNMI 6th graders. Our long term vision is to increase the number of students who pursue a degree in natural resource management at NMC. We see a future where indigenous scientists are leading culturally-relevant ocean and marine research projects in the North Pacific.
Project HOPE (Healthy Ocean & People Empowerment) is an educational collaboration between PSS sixth-graders, NMC ENRO college students, and community elders. Funded by a grant from the Administration of Native Americans (ANA), Project HOPE strives to improve CNMI sixth-graders’ ACT Aspire test scores by offering them a free ocean science program uniquely tailored to their needs; by incorporating local elders’ ocean expertise into a Western science curriculum, the program acts as a bridge between traditional culture and modern conservation science. In the long term, we hope to see this initiative foster interest in conservation careers among CNMI youth, ultimately leading to the development of 30 more local ocean and marine science professionals by 2030.
Project HOPE is facilitated by college students enrolled in Northern Marianas College’s (NMC) Environment and Natural Resources Organization (ENRO) program as mentored by Friends of the Marianas Trench staff. These students partner up with local elders who have a lifetime of ocean experience. Together, they lead approximately sixteen weeks of ocean science club activities for sixth graders, one time per week for 6 hours per session. Activities are designed to offer the sixth graders a tactile learning opportunity geared toward improving their ocean literacy, forming meaningful connections with their community and natural environment and improving their understanding of STEM principles.
Currently, Project HOPE is open to all PSS Middle Schools. Check with your student’s science teacher to sign up or you can sign your sixth grader up for Project HOPE here. Students should be prepared to commit to joining their school’s ocean science club, which will involve attending afterschool and weekend activities at their respective schools and/or at the Guma Sakman and participating in at least one stewardship project. Additionally, students participate in an ocean camp at the end of each semester.
COVID-19 pandemic adjustments: In-person meetings will have a limited number of students and be structured based on social distancing protocols as advised by CHCC Public Health representatives.