BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– When students from the American Indian Academy in Denver heard they were going on a field trip to see Boulder County, they probably didn’t anticipate a steep hike up a ridge. They climbed to their outdoor classroom in order to study the effects of forest fire on the natural world.

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Their teacher Cetan Christensen had a question she wanted them to answer, “What does regeneration look like after a burn?”

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That doesn’t seem like it’s exciting enough to get a bunch of kids up the side of a ridge on a warm day but add a drone into the mix and the excitement level gets kicked up a notch.

“Flying the drone was really cool,” said students Halima and Emily. “We could see things that we couldn’t really see.”

They were looking at land that burned in last year’s CalWood Fire in Boulder County. They used the drones and their own observational skills to see what the habitat looked like for plants and animals one year later.

(credit: CBS)

“We saw hawks,” said Halima.

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This is the first year for the newest Denver charter school serving indigenous students with an indigenized STEAM curriculum. STEM courses are designed so that students learn about conventional science and how indigenous knowledge deepens the insights and discoveries of western science.

“They can actually bring knowledge from home, knowledge from families and incorporate that into the classroom,” said Christensen.

It seems to be a working formula.

Students Angel and River said, “It’s fascinating! Yeah, it’s fascinating.”

(credit: CBS)

Maybe the most important lesson learned this year at the American Indian Academy and on this field trip is that indigenous scholars and students have a lot to offer society. These young men and women can use that knowledge to help change the world.

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“It makes me feel inspired like how I’m related to them,” said River.

Michael Abeyta