Florida STEM Instructor Creates Unique Learning Environment for Native Youth

Tim Hinchman teaching Native youth at the 34th annual Florida Indian Youth Program

Tim Hinchman teaching Native youth at the 34th annual Florida Indian Youth Program

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA—Only 12 percent of American Indians between 25 and 34 have four-year degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs is seeking to change these statistics and prepare American Indians for higher education, employment and self-sufficiency through its Florida Indian Youth Program with the help of life-changing instructors like Tim Hinchman, a STEM instuctor.

“How does Batman use the scientific method?”

Hinchman loves asking his students this question. For him, the classroom experience is about making learning relatable to one’s interests. He does just that by teaching science, technology, engineering and math using superhero analogies to make the content more engaging.

“I try to bring the fun back into the classroom, because learning is more than just books – it’s experiences,” said Hinchman. “Students enjoy the learning process. It can be difficult, but you learn to persevere because you relate the concepts in class to things you enjoy and experience all the time.”

This year, Hinchman participated in his second year as an instructor for the Florida Indian Youth Program – a free summer camp where Native American students are given the opportunity to expand their knowledge through recreational, cultural and social activities in Tallahassee under the leadership of the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs, Inc. This program exists to change the lives of Native American youth, and according to Hinchman, the program does just that.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to work with such inquisitive kids,” said Hinchman. “Seeing how much they enjoy the learning process makes me enjoy teaching them.”

Hinchman says he looks at the aspirations of these youth and it motivates him to be the best STEM teacher he can be.

This summer program provides students with an away-from-home experience to completely immerse them in learning. They participate in more than 50 events that connect back to the program’s four main components: academics, job and life skills, social skills and cultural experience. This program is meant to increase the probability of high school graduation by showing students how to fall in love with learning.

“If you make the classroom an enjoyable place, students will always want to be there,” said Hinchman. “My goal at the Youth Program is to create a desire among students for learning for the rest of their lives.”

The program takes normal high school learning and turns it into something the students can have fun with to ensure their interest and engagement. The Youth Program doesn’t just stop at classes, but allows the students to take breaks and have fun experiences like ziplining and roller skating. The reason students come back to this program is because of the dedication of program leaders, like Hinchman, who are dedicated to giving them a well-rounded educational experience that they can take and use in the future.


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