Reach for the Sky: Integrating STEM Outcomes for American Indian Youth is an innovative science and engineering program funded by the National Science Foundation Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST). Reach for the Sky (RFTS) is a youth-based ITEST program that strives to make learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics more culturally relevant to Anishinabe youth (grades 5-12).

RFTS is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, the White Earth 21st Century After School Program, and schools on the White Earth Reservation (Circle of Life, Mahnomen, Pine Point, and Naytahwaush). University of Minnesota faculty are from three colleges: College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Education and Human Development and the Institution of Technology, as well as University of Minnesota Extension.

The program is designed to bring innovative hands-on STEM curriculum and activities to students in a five-week summer program offered each June/July and through web-based lessons shared with students, teachers, and staff in the White Earth 21st Century after school program. The inquiry-based curriculum, experiential design, cultural relevance and youthful perspective help to make STEM engaging to students. The STEM content if focused on energy and alternative energy sources.

RFTS students learn modern science, math and engineering through traditional American Indian stories and hands-on activities. Integrating western science and the Anishinabe way of life is critical to the program’s success. Reservation Elders, University faculty, and students are all involved in teaching the students that math, science and engineering are part of their daily lives. Weaving traditional skills and knowledge with modern science has energized community involvement.