Community-based Research

“Living in Relations” Community-based Research Projects


The Education Department’s Research and Development program at the American Indian Center’s is focused on recovering, uncovering, and recreating best practices in teaching and learning with Native children, especially urban Indian children through community based participatory action methodologies.

It’s mission is to create innovative and affective learning environments that are community and culturally based, and built from the intellectual and cultural strengths of our community.


The research projects developed at the AIC:

  • Empower community,
  • Increase the capacity of community,
  • Have immediate benefit for community
  • Create empirical work that supports community initiatives
  • Simultaneously contributes to developing fundamental knowledge about human learning and development.

This has meant deeply engaging in understanding human cognition and development as fundamentally about cultural processes across the life span.


Research projects at the American Indian Center aim to improve science learning and school achievement for Native American children. Past projects have been a collaborate effort between Northwestern University, University of Washington-Seattle, Technical Education Research Center, the Menominee Tribal School and the American Indian Center of Chicago and builds off of our previous NSF funded work.

National Science Foundation: Cultural Context of Learning: Native Science Education

National Science Foundation: REESE

National Science Foundation Developmental and Learning Sciences


Our project employs an integration of three types of methods and measures

1. Analyses of input conditions and learning in everyday contexts,

2. More formal cognitive science studies of learning and conceptual organization and

3. Community-based design experiments focused on science learning

3 part diagram-1

Through our projects, we built community capacity to be able to conduct rigorous and quality research.  Some of the ways we did this was by having a community-owned project created by youth, elders, and parents from community.

  • undergraduate students from multiple universities across the city were employed as research assistants and gained extensive research experiences.
  • The projects employed teachers, researchers, and designers who are all active community members.
  • It also created connections across local communities, tribal communities and universities, and has impacted their understandings of science education and urban Native American children and families.


The research and development part of the education dept has received numerous initiations to speak about our projects nationally and

  • Has been publicized by the leading national research organization as one of the most promising models of building US capacity in the sciences!
  • We have had high profile research papers published from our work
  • Have been featured in the SACNAS newsletter twice!
  • Have formed significant relationships with national organizations such as American Indian Science and Engineering Society
  • Have presented at the National Congress of the American Indian conference and the National Indian Education Conference
  • Have presented at several other National conferences including: American Education Research Association, Cognitive Science Society, the National Academies of Science


In 2011, the AIC has been awarded two new grants by the National Science Foundation.

Principle Investigators are:
Dr. Megan Bang, University of Washington- Seattle
Dr. Douglas Medin, Northwestern University

LIVING IN RELATIONSHIPS: Cultural Epistemologies and Science-Related Practices

One of the grants is called Living in Relationships, which is a 3-year collaborative project to design culturally based early childhood programming with a focus on science.

COMMUNITY BASED CITIZEN SCIENCE: Rebuilding Relationships to Place

Our second grant is called Community Based Citizen Science, which is also a 3-year collaborative project to engage community members of all ages in 3 locally meaningful science projects


Some of the ways that you can engage with our work are:

  • Participate in the programming we’ve designed!

  • Attend community meetings

  • Learning about the research and engage in discussions about the work

  • Participate in tasks and interviews

  • Read about the work being produced by the data collection and analysis through journal articles and other publications

  • Visit AIC’s website to learn more about the education department

To find out more about the education department’s research and development, you can visit the AIC’s website at

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