CBC signs letter of endorsement for NASA sponsored Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline

NESPELEM—On October 21, the lot behind the Nespelem School will light up with a display of rocketry.

“We can actually—safely with a lot of things going on—launch even some middle powered rockets, g-80 motors,” said Nespelem teacher Ralph Rise, speaking in Colville Business Council’s Education and Employment committee, yesterday.

Imagine that: small rockets launching like missiles above the Nespelem Valley—not like missiles, said STEM educators yesterday, like slightly more complicated arrows pointed straight up.

The event will come as a push for STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—education on the Colville Reservation and reservation’s across the region by the Northwest Earth and Science Pipeline and others.

Yesterday, the Colville Business Council met with Monet Becenti of First Nations MESA to discuss a tribal K-12 STEM program, Carlos Chavez or the NESSP, Nespelem School’s Rise, University of Washington liaison Ross Braine, UW professor of Earth and space sciences Dr. Robert Winglee and others.

CBC signed a letter of support for NESSP’s work promoting STEM education in Indian Country following the discussion.

According to Rise, the group already has a revocable land use agreement for the reclaimed gravel pit near Owhi Flats and an FAA waiver to fly high-powered rockets to 15,000 feet.

For the October 21 event, Rise has begun reaching out to area schools, inviting students and teachers to attend the rocketry showcase. Next year, said Rise, the group has set a goal to invite tribal nations from across the region to a rocketry celebration.

The idea is to get students and local educators to take a bite, join Rise in bringing STEM education to local kids.

NESSP is a NASA-funded consortium to support STEM education in northwest states. The consortium is housed at University of Washington.

Chavez, an enrolled Sonora Yaqui tribal member, told CBC, NESSP leaders recognized a lack of representation from tribal members in STEM fields and have prioritized breaking that fold.

“As a collaborative group, what we are looking for is to develop a friendship and understand what it is that the kids from the tribe are interested in and to connect them with NASA,” said Chavez.

“Let’s connect [STEM education] to something that’s not only culturally responsive, but culturally appropriate,” said Chavez.

The idea is simple: STEM careers begin with hands-on learning and that learning can be sculpted to the culturally unique environments of tribal communities.

Already, NESSP is working with the Yakama, Crow, Blackfeet and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla reservation and others. The Lummi Tribes’ Northwest Indian College has earned acclaim with rocketry competitions across the nation, said Chavez.

In October 2017, NESSP will host what the group has called the Northwest Regional Native American Rocketry Competition in Colville for student teams from middle school through community college level.

With NESSP’s backing, the Warm Springs Reservation will play host to an event to launch high altitude balloon payloads to fly to the edge of space during the eclipse for "an unprecedented view of the shadow of the moon" on Earth total solar eclipse, August 21, 2017.

All tribes are invited, said Chavez

Currently NESSP is taking one-page proposals for the project on what the total solar eclipse means traditional from their tradition and cultural knowledge from school age tribal members.

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