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Summit Historical Society brings Ute STEM educational program to local kids

Lesson intertwines history with science in teaching about tribes

Students at Frisco Elementary School participate in the Ute STEM educational program, which the History Colorado Center trained the Summit Historical Society to bring to the local community.
Summit Historical Society/Courtesy photo

The Summit Historical Society teaches a program on the history of the Ute tribes and their uses of science, technology, engineering and math with the help of the History Colorado Center.

Summit Historical Society President Sally Queen said her team was trained on the program in fall 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic put a pause on it being implemented. Now, the historical society brings the program to fourth graders across Summit as part of their history curriculum. The society also will hold sessions at private schools and for home-schooled kids, and the nonprofit presented the program to a group of Boy Scouts earlier this week.

The program, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, allows kids to interact with a large-scale map that shows how the Utes traveled around the Colorado and Utah region during different seasons and look through photos old and new of the Utes. Then students are broken into groups and then rotate through stations highlighting each of the STEM areas and how they were common in daily Ute life.



Queen said seeing kids engage with the program will renew anyone’s faith in the education system. She said she thinks the program is important to show kids that history can be fun and isn’t always about reading textbooks.

“For us, it’s just rewarding that these are so well-designed that they can connect history to today,” Queen said. “History Colorado, they have done the research, so we can go in with accuracy and say, ‘Let me tell you about this person and the connections to Summit County.’”



Liz Cook, who leads the project for History Colorado, she said the program is just one piece of a much larger project, which she said looks overall at Ute traditional knowledge and how it relates to how we think about STEM subjects today. At its core, she said the program is about working with youths, Ute elders and experts to spread their knowledge, and History Colorado has a variety of short films and exhibits on display relating to the project.

“We think this is a really interesting model to get kids, and really learners of all ages, engaged in STEM learning,” Cook said. “We don’t often think about social studies and some of our deeper histories as being STEM histories, but they really are. So, I think there’s something kind of fun and thought-provoking about how people who’ve lived in Colorado the longest have used science, technology, engineering and math.”

The program went to Frisco Elementary School last week, and Cook was able to be there to help guide the lesson. She said it was rewarding to see the kids in Frisco relate Ute experiences with wildlife in Summit County to their own experiences.

Cook said the program wouldn’t be possible without the help of folks from the three Ute tribes: the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Utes in southwest Colorado and the Northern Utes in Fort Duchesne, Utah.

“It’s really an honor to be able to work with them, and I think for us to have this conduit to share their knowledge with people across the state is just so important,” Cook said.

Cook said History Colorado has been doing similar programs, like History Take-Out, across the state for more than 10 years. The organization develops all of the hands-on kits used in the educational program and provides training for local entities.

“It really gives kids a chance to explore hands-on objects related to Ute science and then also try some challenges that are hands-on activities that explore those STEM concepts a little bit more,” Cook said. “Once they get the kit, it’s kind of up to them to then start figuring out how they want to share it with their community. And a lot of our partners are working with schools — some are doing more community events … lots of different ways folks are doing it.”

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The Summit Historical Society also presents a similar learning concept called “Moving Day” that takes kids through how people used to migrate around Colorado before 1850, where they have gone and who is still left.

Summit Historical Society President Sally Queen said the program is free to the schools, and she’s noticed its beneficial for adults who are new to the area, too. She said they’ve done the program at the local libraries before.

The historical society will host the “Moving Day” program for home-schooled kids and their families at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Dillon Community Church. Then, on March 16, the society will host the program with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District at Dillon Schoolhouse.


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