Red Cloud Indian School Works to Promote STEM Education with Grant from the Toyota USA Foundation

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The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation school announced Wednesday that it has been awarded a $210,000 grant to prepare students to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through hands-on learning experiences for Lakota youth.

PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION — As the leaves turn and the air grows crisp and cool, a group of excited students at Red Cloud Indian School are venturing out of the classroom and into their new outdoor learning lab for innovative lessons on environmental science, botany, biology and algebra.

The lab, a geodesic greenhouse set amidst cottonwood trees on the remote campus on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, was purchased through a generous grant from the Toyota USA Foundation last year. This week, school staff and students were overjoyed to learn the school would receive a grant to continue STEM education initiatives and further develop the use of the outdoor learning lab to boost math and science achievement.

“We are proud to support Red Cloud Indian School and the important work they are doing to prepare students to pursue STEM degrees in college,” said Michael Rouse, Vice President of Diversity, Philanthropy & Community Affairs and President of Toyota USA Foundation.  “Toyota is deeply committed to supporting the next generation of America’s leaders in mathematics, science, engineering and environmental science, and we look forward to seeing Red Cloud Indian School – and the students they serve – make an even bigger impact in the years ahead.”

“The lab provides a near year-round outdoor learning environment for our students,” says Ted Hamilton, superintendent of schools. “It’s one thing to learn about biology in a textbook, but when you can get a student out of their seat and their hands in the dirt—that’s when you inspire a student to pursue a career in a STEM field—and that’s something we are in critical need of on the reservation.”

This semester, Red Cloud botany instructor Aminah Hassoun will be supporting K-12th grade students and teachers plan how to incorporate the outdoor learning lab into their schedules and lesson plans. The goal, she says, is to use the outdoor learning lab in a variety of lessons and subjects, from geometry and algebra to health, English, and even computer science.

“We brought our high school botany students into the lab to test the soil for nutrients last week before the kindergarten and first graders came in to plant bean seedlings after a week of lessons on plant life,” says Hassoun. “Next we’ll have a geometry and algebra class working with younger students on designing and measuring a tipi-inspired trellis for the beans. One of our Lakota culture teachers will be present to talk about the cultural significance of a tipi and the environment.”

Hands-on experience is essential for the nearly 600 Lakota students at the school, says Hamilton. Nationally, Native students face academic challenges that can impact their ability to compete in the STEM fields.

“Receiving this grant from the Toyota USA Foundation will bolster our STEM programming at the school,” says Hamilton. “Taking on this challenge in all grades ensures our middle school students have the pre-algebra skills they need for high school and our high school graduates have the STEM skills they need to compete for spots at great colleges and universities around the country.”

The Toyota USA Foundation has a charitable endowment of approximately $100 million and supports STEM education programs serving kindergarten through 12th grade students.  For additional information about the Toyota USA Foundation, visit http://www.toyotagrants.com/foundation.

Over the past 20 years, Toyota and the Toyota USA Foundation have contributed nearly $700 million to nonprofits across the United States.

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