Visiting scientist lecture series continues with event for all ages

posted on April 4, 2012

Last Friday evening, Twyla Baker-Demaray, the latest luminary in the Red Cloud’s visiting scientist lecture series, presented for members of the RCHS Science Club.

Baker-Demaray, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of Fort Berthold, North Dakota, is the project director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging. She is also the principal investigator for the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative, at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Baker-Demaray is involved in groups such as the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, of which she is a Sequoyah Fellow. She is also a Bush Foundation/Native Nations Institute Rebuilder Fellow, and was recently named a Native American Top 40 Under 40 honoree by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. The holder of a Master of Science degree from the University of North Dakota (2005), she will receive her PhD from UND next month.

Baker-Demaray’s husband Allan Demaray came and spoke to the students as well. Also from Fort Berthold, Demaray is a renowned Native American flute player, artist, and master craftsman. He has traveled throughout the United States speaking on traditional native ways of life, cultural competency, historical trauma, youth wellness, and related issues. Demaray currently works as the Education and Outreach Director for Northstar Council, a private non-profit organization focusing on physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being for urban Natives and non-Natives in the Grand Forks, ND area and beyond. He began the evening’s event with flute music, and spoke about the centering and healing powers of the Native flute.

The couple both spoke to the assembled students and staff about their educational background and current work. They talked about struggles they have faced, and about challenges of pursuing a career in the sciences, an area in which Native people have historically been underrepresented. The main theme of their speeches, however, was encouragement: giving the students confidence in their own abilities, and encouragement that they could indeed be successful in scientific professions.

The following morning, the school was opened for a special type of Saturday school, and students ranging from the lower elementary through high school came to learn about all things science-related. The Bakers addressed the participants and kicked off the morning’s activities, and then the students visited three different classrooms for hands-on activities and experiments in three subject areas; physics, biology, and chemistry.

In the physics classroom, students learned about electricity from high school physics teacher Mike “Brother B.” Baranek, SJ. Student volunteers took turns placing their hands on a Van de Graff generator, and the other students giggled with delight as their hair began sticking straight up. After the physics presentations were completed, students had the choice of going to the biology classroom of Shannon McConnaughey to learn about the workings of the heart, or to the chemistry classroom of Wendell Gehman, to learn about the properties of certain gasses.

A highlight of the chemistry presentation was when students touched (from a safe distance) a lighted flame to a balloon full of hydrogen gas. The resulting fireball delighted everyone present, and definitely sent a message to the students that science class can be the most exciting part of a Saturday!

A photo gallery of the various events can be found HERE