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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 17, 2004 - Issue 111


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Budding Scientists share Knowledge

by Noel Lyn Smith - The Navajo Times
credits: photo: Thoreau Middle School seventh grader Kumiko Manuelito explains that native plants can cure some minor illnesses and save a trip to the hospital. Her entry is "Dine Beiazee" -Navajo medicine. (Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

Students combine culture with science and technology at 3rd Diné Cultural Science, Math and Technology Fair

Thoreau Middle School seventh grader Kumiko Manuelito explains that native plants can cure some minor illnesses and save a trip to the hospital. Her entry is "Dine Beiazee" -Navajo medicine. (Times photo - Paul Natonabah)WINDOW ROCK - Watch out world, a future Albert Einstein or Rachel Carson could be among the students who participated in the third annual Diné Cultural Science, Math and Technology Fair March 31 and April 1 at the Navajo Education Center.

Kumiko Manuelito, a Thoreau Middle School seventh grader, entitled her project "Diné Beiazee." It focused on traditional versus modern medicine.

Manuelito questioned if using traditional medicine would help cure minor aches and save a person a visit to the hospital.

"I just wondered if there is any plants you can just use to help your stomach and headaches," Manuelito said.

Her poster had both English and Navajo names for juniper (Gad), blue grama (Tl'oh nástasí) and sagebrush (Ts'ah). She asked her great-grandmother for help in locating the plants.

Alexander Beauford, winner in environmental science, focused on graffiti's effect on humans. He displayed pictures of graffiti and analyzed its impact on a person's feeling.

A student at Red Rock Day School in Red Valley, Ariz., this was his second science fair and he is thinking about a career in archaeology.

Eighth grader Wanda Weaver from Tsé Bit'Aí Middle School in Shiprock compared Greek and Navajo constellations. The project helped her learn about Navajo culture and astronomy.

Along with displaying star maps, Weaver talked about different stories inspired by the constellations. She told the story of Ursa Minor (Little Dipper). In Greek mythology, sailors thought of it as the direction leading them home. Navajos believe it is the "starter of life" and represents the four directions.

Weaver asked her grandparents and their friends for help with the Navajo stories.

Twenty-two schools participated in the fair sponsored by the Navajo Nation Rural Systematic Initiative and Office of Diné Youth. Kindergarten through fifth grade competed March 31 and sixth grade to 12th grade competed April 1.

Projects were placed into categories such as botany, chemistry and microbiology. Students were judged on their use of the scientific method, visual display, oral presentation and cultural aspect.

Getting students involved with science and technology and applying the field to culture was the emphasis of the fair, said Marilynn King-Johnson, department director for the Office of Diné Youth and Office of Youth Opportunity.

"The number one question they (children) ask is 'Why?'" King-Johnson said. The fair gave students the opportunity to answer their questions through research and experimentation.

"I see this growing even more," said Paulina Watchman, from the Navajo Nation Rural Systematic Initiative.

She was excited students combined culture with their projects. "All native cultures extend from science," she said.

Josie Willie and Sue House, teachers from Thoreau Middle School, encouraged their students to choose topics that dealt with culture.

House was happy some students asked their grandparents for help with the cultural aspects.

With 16 of their students participating, the teachers thought the event was a positive way for students to become interested in science.

First through third place were awarded ribbons and medallions. Sponsors are looking forward to next year's fair.

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