CIS Weekly Bulletin

International Students Weekly Bulletin

Jim Rock - Native Star Knowledge Presentation - February 21st

WHO: Jim Rock

DATE: Thursday, February 21, 2013

TIME: 5:00-6:30

Where: Atwood Little Theatre

Topic: Native Star Knowledge




James Rock(Dakota) - Jim has a Master’s degree in education and has taught astronomy, chemistry and physics for 30 years for thousands of students in universities and high schools from urban, suburban and reservation communities.  He currently teaches a Native Skywatchers course at Augsburg College and offering these indigenous cosmology lessons to teachers throughout Minnesota in collaboration with Annette Lee at St. Cloud State and Fond du Lac. He also taught and designed the curriculum for fifteen years for the University of Minnesota’s Indigenous Summer Science & Math Program called Andogiikendassowin/Wasdodyawacinpi (“Seek To Know”) in partnership with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.  He taught courses in Native Skywatchers, Astronomy and American Indian philosophy at Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College where he also tutored and inspired urban Native students to see and experience science through a combination of western and Native knowledge.  Jim’s unique approach to teaching has inspired many students, both Native and Non-Native, to seek careers in STEM/science, anthropology and education.  He most recently was the PI (principal investigator) and designed the first Native American experiment aboard STS-135 Atlantis, on the last NASA space shuttle which also involved Native students from the American Indian OIC high school, the Science Museum of MN, and Dream of Wild Health which is a Native youth gardening project.  He is chair of the board for the Dream of Wild Health.  In September of 2010 he returned to the PluriNational State Bolivia after thirty years during the Morales government and with his wife on behalf of the Philips Indian Educators they signed a 3 year acuerdo/agreement with the Ministry of Culture’s ViceMinistry of Decolonization involving four aspects of indigenous intercambio/exchange: cosmovision, education, climate change and health and wellness as part of their national philosophy of “Buen Vivir – Sumak Kamanya-Sumak Kawsay.”  This past summer he taught a science education graduate course to an indigenous cohort of teachers in a master’s degree program at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. His present work also includes the Onandaga Nation Tribal School and the MOST Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York as a consultant on the NASA-Beautiful Earth Team.  He also presented at St. John’s University with Kenji Williams and Bella Gaia in addition to giving a session with NASA/UMBC’s Beautiful Earth director Valerie Casasanto at the National (AISES) American Indian Science and Engineering Society conference in November and recently presented in Albuquerque at the (NIEA) National Indian Education Association.


As a consultant with the MN Planetarium Society(now UM Bell Museum), Jim incorporated Indigenous star knowledge in their ExploraDome presentations which exposed 100,000 students in the last three years to see Earth from space and space from Earth.  These students and dome visitors were not only from the US seeing the skies though different cultural lenses, but also by means of UniView technology, youth and adults from all over the world could interact live together from several continents simultaneously!  Additional mentoring experiences that Jim is or has been involved in are: the Scholastic Connections Mentor Program at Augsburg College, The College of St. Catherine’s Summer Program for Latina Youth (MN Hispanic Women’s Development Corp) the Science Museum of MN, Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth Summer Program at Macalester College, Migizi Summer Youth Program, School District 196 Indian Education Program and the Nawayee Center School program, where he taught traditional sky-earth concepts and took students to the sacred Black Hills to see and remember where and how this knowledge originates.


Jim was honored to be selected as a Cosmic Serpent fellow. This was an NSF-funded, three year project between Native and Western scientists through museum partnerships.                                                                 


Jim also takes his work as an independent consultant into his teaching and mentoring experiences.   He has worked for organizations such as NOAA, NASA, Indigenous Educational Design, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Minnesota Planetarium Society, Phillips Indian Educators, Dakota Wicohan, Minneapolis Public Schools, MN Historical Society, Science Museum of MN, the 106 Group of Archeologists, City of Plymouth, MN, and the Maya Society of MN.  Jim also speaks at least five languages and has lived, traveled, studied and worked in Japan, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Spain, Aotearoa(New Zealand), Mexico, Guatemala and Canada.   Jim received a 2008 National Association of Geoscience Teachers Award and the 1997 Elizabeth Sorin award from Hamline University.  Jim has served on the boards of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association and the Maya Society of Minnesota and on committees for the National Science Teachers Association, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.  He presented a paper on Indigenous star knowledge at the 2005 World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education in Aotearoa/New Zealand. He is also a musician, drum group member and board member of All Nations Indian Church and Child Care Center, and has been an activist, consultant, instructor/interpreter and author on sacred sites restoration issues with the 106 Group of archaeologists and for the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and for Wakan Tipi sacred cave site at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Lower Phalen Creek Project in St. Paul managed and interpreted by the National Park Service and others.  But most importantly he is grandfather (“Tunkan”) to his five year old, indigenous “skywatcher” who is already learning to love and pass on the ways and languages of her many indigenous nations, ancestors and relatives.

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