Educating teacher candidates on how to infuse indigenous ways of knowing into our classroom practice is a challenge for me. Firstly, because my experiences as a young learner is during a time where we were disengaged with understanding this part of our Canadian heritage. I have no reference of what good teaching looks like that includes this. Secondly, because I am not fully learned or comfortable with indigenous knowledge to teach it from any expert authority.
Teacher candidates share the same sentiment when I remind them of ‘The Ontario First Nation, Metis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework’ (2007) that was designed to be put in place by all teachers across Ontario. Panic sets in. How do we? When do we? Why do we?
When I’m honoured by a visit, I call on Dr. Nicole Bell to guest speak. As a member of the Anishnaabe (Bear Clan) and Assistant Professor at the School of Education: Trent University, she shares what indigenous culture-based education entails. This is a type of education that instills the knowledge, skills and confidence to these youth to complete elementary and secondary school so that they can pursue careers in post secondary, training or the workforce. It also guides them so that they are socially, politically and economically contributive citizens in the world. But importantly, it is an education that is meant for every single student (all backgrounds) so that we all have knowledge and appreciation for the contemporary and traditional First Nation, Metis, Inuit traditions, cultures and perspectives. This is our Canadian heritage and we all should learn this. Nicole mentioned one thing that resonated with me and that was that if I wanted to know about my culture, I could travel to Guyana to learn about it, the way someone of Irish ancestry could hop on a plane to Ireland to learn about theirs, or someone of Chinese descent could visit China, but where would Nicole go to learn about her culture. It is here, but it is on the verge of being culturally extinct. We have to preserve it and learn about it, so that it can be shared amongst Canadians, particularly Indigenous Canadians.
Her discussion of indigenous ways of knowing within a science education context highlights how science knowledge has socially constructed elements, which fail to include perspectives of science knowing from other cultures. Making connections between scientific knowledge and student’s prior knowledge is important for learning and scaffolding understanding. We do this for our students already. So why would we not teach science in a way that students from an indigenous background can make sense of too?
I recently posted this wordle on my instagram (see photo) that was shared at the 2014 ministry forum during the session, “Re-imagining science teacher education in the 21st century: Bridging the theory-practice divide – Katherine Bellomo, Erminia Pedretti, Dave Doucette, Chris Meyer”. Below a fellow instagrammer commented saying, “what exactly is aboriginal science?” I don’t know that there is any clear definition. I can share my point of view on ‘aboriginal science’, which for me is embedded in the ways in which we teach science education. I don’t believe that the notion here is that a particular type of science exists such as an aboriginal science. Instead I view aboriginal science as a way of re-imagining science education that uses pedagogical strategies to teach science through references to aboriginal ways of knowing where appropriate. In this way we are mindful of the diversity of knowing and understanding among the students in our classroom. We are cognizant of their backgrounds and we draw on their experiences and knowledge to help them make sense of the scientific knowledge we are about to present. Therefore we would teach science by referencing culturally appropriate ways of knowing (such as traditional indigenous knowledge as one example of many since we can teach through other appropriate referents). This would allow educators to make meaningful connections that honour the diversity of our learners, teach them multiple perspectives regarding scientific thought so that they are critical thinkers, and provide teaching strategies and pedagogy that is innovative and inclusive.
My mind is still churning with ideas on this issue. I have much to learn in this field, thus I am open to any contributions.
Policy Framework is found at this link:
Salima shared this with me, I have to read it but I thought I would post it: