PANI-O Project Description

There is a need to develop STEM-related fields specially in agriculture and engineering-related skills that will transform nutrition and science education at all levels in the community of the Pawnee Nation College, surrounding Pawnee county, and tribes with which there is already cultural exchange. The community needs dynamic, multigenerational curricula that will prepare them to produce native traditional foods and leafy greens to meet their food security and nutrition needs. This program involves science-based approaches to engage the community in keeping abreast in the interest in STEM areas for the youth and 4H group while incorporating nutrition education, food production, food security, food safety, food processing, culture and language to strengthen the social fabric of the Pawnees.

Pawnee Nation

Dr. Patricia Rayas Duarte is the PI of a collaborative team formed by Oklahoma State University extension and outreach and Pawnee Nation College faculty developing STEM-based curricula to college, youth and community.

The co-investigator team includes Drs. Lynn Brandenberger and Joshua Ringer, OSU Department of Horticulture, and Tim Bowser, OSU Department of Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering.

The co-investigator team from Pawnee Nation College includes President Michael Burgess and staff members Dennis Haga, Kim Murie and Dr. Clarance Benes.

There is a need to develop STEM-related fields specially in agriculture and engineering-related skills that will transform nutrition and science education at all levels in the community of the Pawnee Nation College, surrounding Pawnee county, and tribes with which there is already cultural exchange. The community needs dynamic, multigenerational curricula that will prepare them to produce native traditional foods and leafy greens to meet their food security and nutrition needs. This program involves science-based approaches to engage the community in keeping abreast in the interest in STEM areas for the youth and 4H group while incorporating nutrition education, food production, food security, food safety, food processing, culture and language to strengthen the social fabric of the Pawnees.

Curricula development targeted to hands-on training in basic gardening agricultural practices, principles of producing native crops, nutrition education, preparation and preservation of native foods, food safety, culture, language and sustainability will be interconnected. The targeted audiences are youth, native college students and intergenerational participants including elders knowledgeable of native cultural practices, which could be otherwise lost if not shared and recorded in a systematic approach. OSU's team of extension educators and staff from the Pawnee Nation College are working side-by-side in all aspects of the project including development and delivery of the curricula.

Growing their own garden, science camps, inter-visitations with other tribes and recording the modules with participants and with elders will allow electronic recording of the lessons learned and dissemination efforts. Selected curricula modules will be ensembled and made available electronically to other native nations.

Update on Activities

  1. Developing the Pawnee Nature Trail by the Pawnee Creek on the grounds of Pawnee Nation, Pawnee, OK. We will identify native and invasive species, edible, medicinal and ceremonial plants. Plants used for building, basket making and extraction of pigments will also be identified. In progress is the development of a poster with information about the plants name and uses as well as placing QR barcodes for scanning the information with personal electronic devices when walking the Pawnee Nature Trail.
  2. Developed curricula for two science camps (winter and spring) for youth focused on culinary and medicinal herb planting from seeds.
  3. Preparing raised beds garden for this summer. Planting the three sisters, corn, beans and squash, plus other items such as tomatoes, culinary herbs, watermelon, a variety of peppers and leafy greens.
  4. Co-organized a Science and Cultural trip to Nebraska, homeland of the Pawnees. The visit includes attendance to a Native Corn conference, STEM classes with shared information to students of Pawnee Nation College and other native students in attendance from the Nebraska Tribal College connection.
  5. A major discussion will be led Ms. Deb Echo-Hawk, the Pawnee Nation Keeper of the Seeds, describing the efforts to preserve Native Pawnee mother corn.
  6. Other activities included in the trip are a one-day technical training on the water, soil and environment interactions for the Pawnee Nation College students and visits to farms that have assisted planting the Pawnee native corn, and two Pawnee museums.


OSU's Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center is a co-sponsor of the conference program. The host institution is Central Community College of Hastings, NE, and our collaborator Rhonda O’Brien, who has been instrumental in working with Ms. Echo-Hawk on the Pawnee Native corn project in Nebraska for many years.