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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 8, 2003 - Issue 80


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Explorer's Club: Science Program for Reservation Children

By Eleanora Robbins and Edited by Roy Cook

Explorer's Club membersExplorer's Clubs are on four reservations in San Diego County: Pala, Jamul, Campo, La Jolla. The purposes of this free monthly program are many: nourish interest in love of outdoors, introduction to outdoors science as a career, share the values that protect the earth, and to provide outdoors scientists as role models. The program is the brainchild of Dr. Eleanora (Norrie) Robbins, a geologist who retired in 2001 from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Washington, DC area. She is now adjunct faculty at San Diego State University.

The activities are designed for children, 6-12 year old. These include: exploring the four directions, collecting rocks, discovering what people add to the streams, digging to learn about soil and underground water, panning for gold and minerals, learning outdoors photography skills, and hunting for lizards. The children are free to roam, get wet and dirty, and to make observations; if they don't think they are having fun, they vote with their feet.

Norrie Robbins was concerned that she rarely met Native American scientists in her 36 year career with the Federal Government. Social Worker Mona Osbourne, Pawnee, BIA-retired, taught her that children on Tribal reservations often meet social workers and lawyers but rarely scientists. So Norrie decided to demonstrate by example and be a scientist around Native American kids. Additionally, she wanted to bring this opportunity a Native American Tribal reservation. One recent formal activity included participating in National Water Monitoring Week, Oct. 18, 2002. EPA personnel from five reservations joined in to teach the six to twelve years of age children how to keep water safe and to measure water quality.

Tribal Education Directors on each reservation structure their programs individually. Some feed the children lunch or snacks, and some provide a van and driver to transport the children. Their funding is through MESA, JOM, or Head Start Boys and Girls Clubs. Some request an hour after school programs and some reserve a longer block of time on Saturday. Future proposed urban meetings of the Explorer Club may include trips to traditional village sites in San Diego city: Old town, Balboa Park, Mission Valley and so on. These meetings continue to hold the promise of increased awareness of tradition and the positive encouragement of self esteem. More volunteer biologists and Tribal elders are needed. She is inviting, with tribal encouragement, other scientists from San Diego State University, United States Geological Survey, Santa Ana Water Quality Review Board, and Palomar College.

If you would like to help organize a program on your reservation or community

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