Seven Sisters are Taking Up Space!
July 31, 2021
Over the past COVID era a group of seven Native American girls, ages 9 – 12 years old, from six tribes were doing exceptional things. Alaskan Ute, Apache, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Dine, and Coeur d’Alene Ojibwe formed an alliance – the seven sisters.
On Zoom, the girls competed in an international hack-a-thon sponsored in part by UNICEF. The seven sisters created art for an astronaut’s non-profit foundation that will be added to a space suit that goes around the world to hospitals, schools, and children’s networks. A museum exhibit of the girls’ art work is also in discussion. And finally, each cohort made a presentation of their experiment and artwork, and then showcased it for astronaut Nicole Stott. Nicole then picked the top three experiments that we will work on for the next semester with our goal to be tested on the ISS.
Once a week our seven sisters met on their own volition, for a program that was tough, demanding, and participatory. STE(A)M was taught to the girls, Newtonian Forces, the Normal Force, and how to develop a zero G free flight experiment to be flown on the ISS.
Our mentor for the program, Dr. Mae Hey, thoughtfully dove into program development, and also told Anishinabe stories that related to our STEM lesson. In fact, every week Storytelling is scheduled into the program. In order to shift our minds, get the girls moving, and to add body positivity, we danced after our STEM lesson and before Storytelling.
This three pronged program has intention. Each girl is viewed as a sprout. A sprout needs water, sunlight, and good soil. Too often, we suggest, students only receive instruction, and that is not enough to build a foundation of knowledge. It is empty of relation to time and space – for example, why do important moments in history matter, and not just recalling the date of an event. This applies to two prongs of our program: the last, we purport is the most important.
Self esteem, self confidence, loving yourself, whatever popular vernacular calls it, we have to instill that in our children. The ability to stand up for what is right, to be a helper, requires an immense amount of “grit.” Our dance break and Storytelling is a part of our endeavor to up-lift our girls and to be proud of their heritage. Our program incorporates professional, strong indigenous women co-teaching our STEM classes. In our co-teachers, the seven sisters can see themselves as everything from a NASA astronaut and engineer, to a ‘green’ architecture graduate student at University.