Native Village 
Youth and Education News

October 1, 2012

Preparing Native American Students for the Workforce of the Future
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Minnesota:  An effort to get Native American students ready for the workforce of tomorrow is finding success. The American Indian Math Project is an after-school program with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 Matson directs the Youth Leadership Development Program at the Division of Indian Work

"Students start to set their study habits and their goals; they need to start thinking about what they are going to do and their areas of interest," said Louise Matson.  "You know we always say that our people were the first scientists here, and to try to see those kids make that connection and then it can be fun and that it can be an option for them."

Matson directs the Youth Leadership Development Program at the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis. The program, which partners with Minneapolis Public Schools, also intertwines cultural education. It serves American Indian youth grades 5-8.

Matson say the program makes learning enjoyable. For example, in the winter time, students play the traditional game of 'snow snakes.'

"They make a track and they make a wooden snake and they race and it's a game, but you can teach math skills like friction and velocity to go along with that," she said. "So, you're teaching experiential learning and kind of tying it into culture, but then teaching some real-life math skills."

The efforts are paying off.

"We do teacher surveys with the students and we do show an increase in math scores. We'd like to see that continue to improve, but we have been able to show that they have shown improvement in their grades, each of the five years."

Its success in the past five years has resulted in a 21st-Century Community Learning Center grant of $800,000, to keep the American Indian Math Project running for the next three years.

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