How Google is supporting computer science education in Indigenous communities

The representation of Native Americans in STEM fields such as engineering and computer science is currently the lowest of any demographic group. This results in an equity gap in computer science education, with a need for more resources, teacher support, and culturally centered curriculum. To address this, Google has committed $600,000 this year to increasing access and participation in computer science for Indigenous students, with an additional $180,000+ in funding announced to round out Native American Heritage Month. The funding supports initiatives at various institutions and organizations:

1. University of Minnesota Foundation’s Center for CS Ed: Developing an Indigenous CS curriculum unit specifically for Ojibwe and Dakota cultures and providing stipends to schools with significant Native American student populations for workshops to implement the curriculum.

2. Arizona State University: Collaborating with partners to create a “Weaving CS Visions” toolkit for Indigenous schools and communities that centers Native cultural knowledge and values, with the goal of co-developing a culturally revitalizing approach to CS education.

3. Indigitize: Working to engage Indigenous youth in CS and customize existing curricula and resources to better serve Native American learners, aiming to reach upwards of 10,000 students in seven school districts across the country.

4. American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES): Providing $60,000 in scholarships to support 20 Indigenous students with education-related expenses in order to increase the representation of Indigenous peoples in STEM studies and careers.

In addition to these initiatives, Google is also looking forward to supporting the 2024 Four Corners Conference in Farmington, New Mexico, after sponsoring educators at the 2023 Four Corners Computer Science Convening in Durango, Colorado. The in-person convening will expand beyond Indigenous-serving educators to include administrators. The intention is to empower students to solve culturally relevant problems, such as language preservation, through a focus on Indigenous perspectives in computer science education.

The ultimate goal of these efforts is to provide Native American students with the same opportunities in computer science as their peers from other demographic groups. By developing culturally centered curriculum, providing resources, and supporting organizations and initiatives working with Indigenous communities, it is hoped that the representation of Native Americans in STEM fields, particularly in computer science, will increase over time. This will not only benefit individual students and communities, but also contribute to the diversity and richness of the broader STEM landscape.

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