International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
Science and the Swinomish: Teachers’ Responses to Professional Development Created by Principals with the Support of Cross-District, Tribal, and University Partners


The purpose of this study is to explore teachers’ responses to cross-district professional development created by their principals in a multi-district, rural, small-community setting.

This study is guided by the following questions:  What benefits, if any, accrue for teachers from professional development that intentionally incorporates a multi-district focus? In what ways does this professional development benefit from support from cross-district, Tribal, and university partners? In particular, this study examines the extent to which cross-district collaboration benefits teachers in developing and presenting culturally relevant science lessons. In addition, the current study is inextricably connected to the setting in which the study occurred: two small, rural school districts that are deeply influenced by their proximity to and relationship with a Native American Tribe and its culture.

Funded by a 21st Century Consortium Grant, Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education and Huxley College of the Environment, in collaboration with the Swinomish Tribe, formed a partnership with the La Conner and Concrete School Districts to immerse K-12 teachers and principals in the Since Time Immemorial (STI) curriculum (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2012). The Concrete School District is situated near the headwaters of the Skagit River in northwest Washington State; the LaConner School District rests near the point where the Skagit River meets Salish Sea. Historically the Swinomish and Upper Skagit Tribes have relied on fishery in the Skagit River as a major source of cultural identity and a vital part of the Tribes’ food supply. In keeping with the aims of the partnership, participating principals guided teachers in collaborative professional development to create science lessons focusing on topics such as salmon recovery, tideland impacts, and water use in the “Science and the Swinomish” project.

The value gained from sharing of ideas, not only about the project, but through the collaboration of educational practices in general, became an unexpected but welcome outcome, and a major benefit to both school districts. As one participating teacher stated, “Simply having the time to get to know teachers from another district was invaluable.  Teaching in small districts can feel isolating at times, and it was so refreshing to visit another district/high school.”