American Indian students first to review Frontiers for Young Minds article


by Amee Hennig, associate Editor for Frontiers for Young Minds

When asked where the science in your text book comes from, students often don’t have an answer. It was no different for the students of Lapwai High School, located near the Nez Perce Reservation in Lapwai, ID. So when the nine Nez Perce students of Tami Church’s mathematics class were asked to be the first-ever American Indian student reviewers for a Frontiers for Young Minds article they enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to make a real impact on a scientific discovery they would not read about in their textbooks.

Frontiers for Young Minds is read by kids, teachers and parents around the world.  It’s free for all to read and there are no publishing fees for the distinguished scientists who write   about their cutting-edge discoveries in a language that is accessible for young readers. It is then up to the kids – with the help of a science mentor – to provide feedback and explain to the scientists how to best improve the articles before it is published in the journal.

Dr. Ben Zuckerman’s article, “Are there other Earths out there? Astronomers’ first clues to an answer date back 100 years” would be the article the students would review. The students found the opportunity unique, never experiencing a similar activity in the traditional classroom. They were extremely excited to see the name of their class included on the final published article, and said they can’t wait to do their next Young Minds review. One student also said, “It is really cool that a scientist would care what we think about his work!”

As an Associate Editor for Frontiers for Young Minds, when I was asked to find a classroom to review this article, I immediately thought of Tami Church and her Nez Perce students. Tami Church is a previous participant in CIAN’s Research in Optics for K-12 Educators and Teachers (ROKET), which is a research based program for educators of Native American students. Tami’s experience in the ROKET program ended with the creation of specialized lesson plans for her students to use spectrometry to analyze petroglyphs for graffiti. For this reason her students were the perfect fit to review Dr. Zuckerman’s article, which talks about using spectroscopy to analyze white dwarf stars for elements which might indicate orbiting planetary bodies. And they did an amazing job.

After reviewing the article I asked the students if they wanted to review future articles, the answer was unanimously and enthusiastically “yes!”

I believe that these students’ participation in Frontiers for Young Minds increased the students understanding of how science research works, and will open up new opportunities in the STEM fields. Not only do the students receive a unique mentorship, not available in the traditional classroom, but the students lay claim to the publication of an article being shared with their peers.

Dr. Zuckerman’s article is posted to the Frontiers for Young Minds in the Understanding Astronomy and Space Sciences Section. The article focuses on data taken approximately 100 years ago by astronomers who, at the time, did not have a full understanding of what could be done with the information. Today astronomers were able to transform the data into results revealing the existence of planetary bodies around the white dwarf star van Maanen 2. This is significant because of the search for extrasolar planets and potential worlds for other lifeforms.

The implications of the article were not lost on the Nez Perce students reviewing the article; they read into the possibility implied by the research that we might someday find out we are not alone in this universe!


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