JEMEZ PUEBLO, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico pueblo is getting recognized for teaching kids skills that develop science, technology, engineering and math, or ‘STEM,’ through Native American traditions.
While most STEM education takes place in the classroom or lab, the Flower Hill Institute on the Jemez Pueblo is taking education outside, bringing students right to the land for hands-on learning about their environment.
“Flower Hill is a place where indigenous people’s routes all connect to that one mountain,” said Joseph Brophy Toledo, cultural adviser at the Flower Hill Institute.
In the pueblo, Toledo uses that mountain in his teachings. At the institute, he teaches young students about the environment through Native traditions using the elements, like fire, water, air quality and the impact of agriculture.
“We need to start training our youth about the environmental issues that we’re going through, especially the global warming issues of climate change,” said Toledo. “We’re bringing in our indigenous knowledge, then bringing in our science, scientists. I’m teaching my kids that they’re the environmentalists.”
This unique take on STEM education through nature is now bringing national attention to the pueblo. Flower Hill was recently awarded a $50,000 grant through the UL Innovative Education Award.
“The grant that we applied for is extra support that we needed in order to do the outreach, not only with our pueblo people but all pueblo people,” said Toledo.
Toledo says his teachings take on everything from water testing to agriculture and combating climate change. He says it’s important for the students to understand the answers are out there.
“We teach a lot about the coping skills, how do we cope with weather, how do we cope with Mother Earth, how do we bring the balance to understand it, and do we have answers?” said Toledo. “Yes, we do.”
It’s a powerful lesson he hopes they will continue to carry on through future generations. He says it’s important to teach beyond the pueblos, as well.
“We’re teaching them about what they did at that time to what’s going on today,” said Toledo. “We need these indigenous ancestral knowledge to play a part.”
Flower Hill is one of five organizations to receive the UL Innovative Education Award this year. The award invests money annually in environmental and STEM learning, sustainable communities and youth empowerment.