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Horses were the focus of science camp
By Dr. Jen Janecek-Hartman, Nokotas on the Prairie Camp Director
14 July 2008

      United Tribes Technical College hosted the seventh annual Nokotas on the Prairie: Math, Science, Technology and American Indian Culture Camp. Youngsters in grades 3 to 6 attended Monday through Friday during the month of June.

      The campers participated in math, science, technology, culture, wellness and equine care activities. The purpose was to encourage and engage them in topics based in math and science.

Nakotas on the Prairie
LEARNING TO LEAD: A happy Gabrielle Poitra, 9, learns to lead 19 year old Jake, an "almost human" participant, during lesson one of the "Nokotas on the Prairie" horse camp. Youngsters attending the camp in June at United Tribes Technical College worked their way up to riding horses while they learned about science, math and culture. It is the only camp of its kind in the area. Horsemanship instructor Virginia Eck (far right) says that Jake knows the youngsters who have participated in previous years. UTN photo Dennis J. Neumann.

      But it was studying horse culture and working with horses that were the camp's main focus. Over the course of 12 lessons, the students progressed from leading and walking the horses to riding.

      According to the camp's horsemanship instructor, Virginia Eck, United Tribes is the only organization in the area with a program like it.

      "These lessons bring out the best in everyone," said Eck. "There certainly is a disconnect nowadays with rural life and horses in particular. This is a great way to learn and bring out leadership skills. Along with learning respect for horses, it brings out something in kid's personality. It's a great thing."

      In addition to the hands on horsemanship training, instruction was provided in ecology, water quality, equine health, horse care, and genetics.

      Other study subjects were botany, wellness and gardening. Campers picked a topic to research and presented their findings at a community sharing event held the last week of camp.

      The students participated in three field trips: two overnight outings to the home of the Nokota Horse Conservancy in Emmons County North Dakota near the town of Linton; and one trip to the North Dakota Badlands near the town of Medora where a herd of wild Nokota horses roam in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

      Camp facilitators were: Butch Thunderhawk, American Indian culture facilitator; Derek Schulte, math facilitator; Ginny Eck, equine care and horsemanship facilitator; Dr. Margi Coyle, science facilitator; Denise Folston, co-director. The camp was also assisted by Rebekah Olson, graduate Teaching intern; Frank Bosch, Center for Educational Outreach technician; and Barb Schmitt, Leadership Solutions director, and Jim Schmitt, parent volunteer/master griller.

      The Nokotas on the Prairie Camp originated in 2003 as a two week camp and has grown into a month long science oriented program. Over 175 youngsters from the Bismarck-Mandan area have attended. The camp has been featured at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora, ND, national magazines, and in local television and newspaper stories.

      The camp is made possible with support from the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, NASA, the National Science Foundation and United Tribes Technical College.

      For more information contact camp founder and director: Dr. Jen Janecek-Hartman, 701-255-3285 x 1396, jjanecek@uttc.edu.


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