Experiencing India and Gandhian Philosophies towards Non-Violence, Peace Education, Social Activism and Community Action


I was lucky enough to be given the remarkable opportunity to visit India not as a tourist but as a student.  Here I share my experience of a different aspect of India from the lens of Gandhian philosophies towards non-violence, peace education, social activism and community action from within.  I had no idea what I was about to embark on but I knew I was going to be enlightened!


This is me the night before I was leaving for Madurai, India which is in South India.  Exhausted from last minute packing and knowing that I would still have to go to work the next day and then get to the airport to catch my evening flight! I still couldn’t believe I was actually going to India 🇮🇳 to study! I was nervous and excited for this adventure also knowing that I would be without my kids for the March break.  They wished they could come with me but understood that I was doing something very different than sight seeing the Taj Mahal or visiting popular cities like Dehli or Mumbai.  I wished I could take them with me but that would have to be another time.  This journey will have me doing a lot of critical thinking about Leadership, Education, Peace, Social Activism and the Humankind. So thankful to @dcptkhan and my parents for supporting me and my sisters and brother-in-laws with all their help with the kids! I certainly missed them!


This is me, Annie, Christine and Emily in the airport waiting for our flight.  We didn’t know much about each other going but learned so much about our passions, family and educational interests along the way.  I would travel with these 3 beauties again anytime!


We arrived in Mumbai Airport at almost midnight and we were wide awake! I have not felt the heat yet, even when we exited the air conditioned airport. But it was amazing to see all the people waiting to pick up travelers.  the We are staying at a sweet hotel, The Hyatt for our first night then we will take a domestic flight first thing in the morning to head to Madurai.

We explored the hotel before we head to bed and woke up for a delicious Indian cuisine breakfast, channa masalas, dosas, basmati rice, chicken tikka, all for breakfast!


Next we head for our domestic flight and are off to see our Professor Dr. Reva Joshee and stay at the Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interaction CESCI Campus in Tamil Nadu, South India.  Finally we arrive and are greeted by Reva.  Did I mention the airplane food in India is so yummy!  Below is me finally in my room.  I was taken by the tiles of Gandhi on the walls to my room.  It was so spiritual to feel a sense of ease and calm in this space.


My living space for the next few days. Quite different from the Hyatt but I’m ready for the challenge and peaceful learning this space proved to be a place of deep reflection for me nightly.



First day I woke up at 6:00 am to sing Victory to World Jai Jagat Pukare Ja…then the most delicious morning Chai and then our gift of labour to the Ashram. Performing Shramdan means giving back to the ashram and doing my fair share of labour for being given the honour to occupy this space right now.



After breakfast of Idly and Sambar its off to class!  Tools for learning; notebooks, iPad, my sons pencil case, camera and water – material necessities. Ultimate tools: Readiness to Learn, Open Mind, Willing to Engage, Actively Listen, Courage to speak. Love Truth and Ahimsa…to be of no harm in ones thoughts, words and deeds. Through love and a greater truth, our relationships and care with oneself, each other, the environment and community is at the forefront of our existence. It’s reciprocal and resources and knowledge is given and shared in return. There is so much already I have taken in and not easy to express. I am ready to take what I have learned and construct new meaning within the relationships I have to be a better me.


Tea time 3 times a day. A ritual that is looked forward to and enjoyed by all here on campus. The conversation seems to always continue around the tea table. No matter how hot it is, the hot tea seems to be soothing.

Staying at the CESCI campus: The Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interaction, is a place where “social work” happens. Meaning a place where community members work on social issues to improve the lives of the most impoverished in India by educating them to realize that they have power within their community.  When leaders from within emerge they begin to understand how to access resources and through the centre learn to do this through nonviolence. By engaging in struggle dialogue, embracing inner capacities and focusing on a pertinent social issue to them such as land, education, poverty, water, girls education- change can happen. Social movement is knowing that if you use “fire for fire” this is “violence for violence” it will create bigger fires.   But “water for fire” this is “nonviolence for violence” then the fire can be extinguished. Social change can occur and the community members have become agents of change for justice . This analogy is from founder of Ekta Parishad “Unity Forum” Dr. Rajaji. A guest speaker in today’s class.


Part of our study is to create a community art piece. Here I find myself painting on of my favourite artifacts of nature a tree. I seems to find myself painting trees all my life. Although we only have one noun to describe a tree, here there are many words to say tree as people understand how much a tree posses and gives. Much like the First Nations in Canada have many words for “snow”. I am using a coconut shell as my paint pot. The tree has given me a paint pot. Not to mention a handle for the bristols.


Coconut shells coloured in paint splattered on the local newspaper.

The following day we visited a local village.  Below we are greeted by the women with gorgeous Rangoli made with coloured powder.


Today we visited a local community that is in th rural area of Madurai called Pundagampatty.  It was an overwhelming experience of respect and celebration of the community and women that certainly was beyond my expectations. The community came together and organized an incredible program to highlight the achievements of there small village, Pundagampatty. We were truly honoured by this gesture in profound ways.


The community Leader Kavita is seen as a Leader in the village who volunteers throughout the community and advocates for the needs of the community. Here she led the school children to us to share the local food that is grown and how it is prepared.


This young man adorned me with my garland of flowers that was handmade by the women to welcome me. The children all wanted pictures 📷 and kept saying “selfie, selfie, selfie!”




Pundagampatty has many amazing things started to make their village thrive and progress. Most of their homes are structured, they have running water and a school for their kids. A young man named Paramar studied at the university,  engineering. He lectures physics there and he is know in the community as the Doctor of herbal medicine a honoured bestowed on him from his father who also is a medicine man and taught him about all the local plants 🌱 and their healing power. Paramar explained each plant displayed for us with passion as his father looked on with pride. I too was in awe of the many roles this man played, he also teaches yoga and meditation to the children and is working towards resources for a local medicine shop so sick villagers do not have to go far for basic health care needs.



After we were led to give an offering to the Gods and blessings. Inviting all of us to partake was a sign of community. There was no hesitation from me even though I am Muslim. I have learned from my grandma that acceptance of others rituals and traditions is a sign of respect. I am also reminded of the time when my dad’s brother had passed away and my dear friend Puja came to our house with her dad to offer condolences. It was time for Magrib and he joined in the prayers although he is Hindu. Acceptance and tolerance begins in our hearts and it only makes me more Muslim when I show respect, love and compassion for my neighbour.

Womens Day

“Women’s Day Celebration” the words written on the ground from the women from this village for us as each of us who came from Canada are women too.  They created beautiful Rangoli and this was an incredible display of community art, showing joy and light by the women. This art is passed down to the children. After they organized a cultural performance with dances and song by the children. Some were fun Bollywood songs and some were songs of liberation “I am no longer a slave i can fly up up up”. The games were organized to show how women must do things carefully and efficiently in order to sustain for the family. I too had to participate in a spoon and lemon game to show spirit and it gave me a sense of acceptance.  March is Women’s Day everyday❤


After the cultural celebration we had a feast prepared by the families. It was so delicious! They made us many different dishes and kept giving us more and more food. I tried my best to eat as much as I could as I know that this would have taken a lot of time and resources.  I was eating pretty slow with my hands and they came several times to me to ask if I needed a spoon in Tamil but I understood and refused.  We laughed together about this and it was wonderful.

My favourite part of the day of course was visiting the local school and the students.


The school was across from the community centre where the celebrations were put on and the temple where we prayed. The kids melted my heart by greeting us at the door with big smiles and wanting handshakes and pictures.

The school children honoured us each with a tree to plant in their school yard  Some were fruit trees and some would flourish to create shade. This was an incredible gesture and I am so priveldged to have planted a tree with these talented bright students. They tried their best to talk with us in English and loved taking selfies. I am hopeful they will take good care of the trees and also that they will continue to educate themselves beyond grade school to be a better community member. That will be my prayer for them.  After we stood in a large circle on the field. I of course was holding the hand of my “sister, sister”, she wouldn’t leave my side. The moment was an overwhelming feeling for me. I had to hold a lot back. I  hope I will visit and see them again but I know I will keep in touch through my friends at CESCI.

After we took a short drive back to the Ashram with little words as we soaked it all in, each of us in such awe and reflection of what we had just experienced.  When we got back to CESCI we went to our rooms in solitude to take in the emotions.  As if it was not enough of a profound day, we got ready to go into the city to visit the Menakshi Temple.  What a day we had planned!

Below the women sit in the shade with the Menakshi Temple as their backdrop and little baby walks around unknowing of the divinity of the structure before her.


One of the most beautiful artifacts of architecture I have seen in my life in the Menakshi Temple.  Dr. Valliamma accompanied us. She is a history professor at an all women’s university and was the first woman in her village to receive higher education. We were not permitted to take photos inside or any closer than this. So the experience is mine and like visiting many holy places the experience was spiritual and enlightening. There are 14 structures like this on the grounds that make up north, south, west and east and then inner structures. We ventured under them where the centre had a huge body of water which was once used to wash deities. Many people were here conducting rituals. The very heart and epicenter we were not permitted to enter as none of us were Hindu’s.  As we walked through corridors all around us had intricately carved gods in many representations. Then suddenly just like that an elephant walked passed me! So close I could reach out and touch it, I have never been that close to an elephant. My mouth literally dropped in the sheer hugeness of the animal that was being revered as a god. 🐘



The food at CESCI is quite delicious but I was happy for a dinner at a restaurant that Dr. Valliamma and her husband, Dr. William a PhD philosopher in Ghandian thought hosted so generously for us.  Butter Paneer and Naan was a great way to end our very busy and life changing day!


In the photo that follows you see Jill (seated, second from the left) and Rajaji (seated in the centre). They are Social activist and freedom fighters who operate the CESCI and organize many grass roots foot marches inspired by Gandhian thought, for equal rights.  They had a huge impact on my learning this week. Dr. Reva my professor is sitting far left next to Jill.  Seated next to Rajaji far right is Dr. Ravi, who was the director at the Gandhi Museum and now is in Delhi.  Along the back standing from left to right is Premkar who works at the CESCI library, then Danraj, Dr. William and his wife, Dr. Valliamma who is now the director of the museum but will be retiring in June.  After it is all of us Emily, Annie, Christine and I. This dinner was a meeting of minds talking about social action, Ghandian influences, Indian culture and Indian sweets!


The next day Thursday March 15, 2018 we headed to the university. They served us tea. Everywhere serves tea.


We learned early in the week that we would be attending an International Conference and that my professor Dr. Reva was presenting. As the week continued we were asked to each present on youth action and peace. So in India I presented at my first conference! I was so nervous! But already I felt I had so much I learned and Reva and Jill convinced us all by gently telling us that our contributions are valuable as they are students like us and doing this work begs to ask what social action we will take. I thought about this and recognized that what I have to give is “knowledge” and I shouldn’t be nervous, we all learn from each other. What good is knowledge if it is not shared.

This conference was for students studying social work which is community work. T he group of ladies I was talking with were students from computer science who came to the conference as well as it was open to everyone. What I tried to capture was that each of them were already leaders and that they cannot underestimate the power of their capabilities to contribute to their community and globally. I had noticed the vision statement on their principals walls and reiterate the words ” becoming accomplished individuals with a stimulus for social change through character, confidence and competence.” The education they are receiving is providing them with skills, resources and supports to do the important “he❤️rt” work that they were doing. I am grateful for their work and the impact they have had and will continue to have on the lives of others.  Especially the lives of their people.  Many of these students especially the women have so many responsibilities at home and getting to school is harder for them. The “girls push out” rate is very high and many girls do not attend or drop out of school to attend to household duties. We had a man come and share with us this problem more intimately earlier in the week. They already inspired me, especially the women.



One of our last days in India we had the chance to finally do a little shopping!  We had a fun ride in a Tuk Tuk!


This beautiful lady owns this boutique and lives above it. She was adopted and lived with a Swiss family who ensured she went on to receive her Masters. She is married now and needs to work. One aspect that Rajaji and Jill shared with us is the idea of continued learning or life long learning is not part of the vernacular. If you get an education and have a job there is no need to educate yourself anymore. What for?? I chatted with her and explained that I have children and a full time job and I go to school in the evenings sometimes weekends. We cannot progress if we don’t keep learning and it keeps our mind active too. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised, it becomes more and more important as we get older. But mostly we won’t be able to keep up with the fast paced world of information sharing and changing if we don’t. But even more importantly when we keep learning we open our minds to more possibilities and meet more amazing teachers along the way.



India I will miss so much about you. You have changed my heart, mind and soul and I know I will be living with more Ahimsa in my life. I feel like you have always been with me and being with you I saw so much of myself that I can only think my ancestors are here, somewhere. When I go home the bustle and energy of my life will surround me and I will love it. I miss Kaysan and Khyra  and Mike dearly. But I will be the only one changed and see life differently, more beautifully than before.  I am blessed to have been on this journey with the love and support of all my family.  My mom and dad seemed to know I was going to India before I did❤️💙.  I have big dreams and high hopes for all my family and friends everywhere in the world, and my new friends in India. May you experience enlightenment somewhere along your journey in life and may you be generous enough to share it with me so I can continue to learn and grow, no matter how old I am and so I can tell you how amazing you are because I am sure I don’t say it enough.💙❤



                             Experiencing India and Gandhian Philosophies Class of 2018




CESCI Website:  http://www.cesci.ch/en-us/cescicenter.aspx

Reaching new heights – Climbing Mt. Fuji, Japan

The only source of knowledge is experience,  Albert Einstein 

Seeking knowledge through experience is by far the most impactful and emotional way to learn.

A few months ago, we climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan.

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We started at the 5th station with our crew. We bought walking sticks and mailed some post. At this point we still don’t know what we got ourself into! And while we sent our own prayers that God willingly – inshaAllah – we make it up there the Komitoake shrine at the Fuji Suburu line also chanted a prayer…

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And then we began to climb. And it rained and rained… but it was so hot too. So we were soaked on the inside and soaked on the outside!
Since it’s Obon season – a Japanese -Bhuddist custom- there were hundreds of climbers, like-minded people searching for enlightenment and purpose as they climb during this spiritual festival that honours ancestors before us. We become humbled by those who made our existence possible. And even more humbled by the paths our parents (and their parents..and so on back) worked to create so that we could dream of doing this at all.
The rocks were slippery and you had to be attentive to every step you make. Here the journey is extremely important.


Then when we thought the rain was relentless, it stopped…and the sun came out for the last leg of our first day’s climb. Actually I think we just climbed high enough above the rain. From 5th station just past the 7th station.


e were so weary..but that sun on our faces energized us and we climbed again to our mountain hut.
I should say…
It’s taking me awhile to post…but I wanted to share the steps of this climb for those who wish to see.

We had dinner and slept on a mountain hut. Welcome to Toyokan. This was an amazing experience. It is at 3000m. We only stayed for 5 hours.

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The sun set and it fell dark and it was so cold. I think I slept 2 hours at most. It was just freezing. Our crew talked about how hard those steep slippery rocks were to climb. You really had to be attentive and sure of every step. No time to look back or even ahead. Just be present in that moment. Yes, metaphorically..
But you seriously could twist an ankle or break a leg. I banged up my knee a couple times on the rock.
But it was a great reminder of living in every moment step by step. Being attentive to it. Careful with it. And that reaching the top will be impossible if you’re careless with your present. So just be present!

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Most of the climb was in the night.  It’s hard to describe…but we are scaling the side in a single line (all the climbers together). You can just see our headlight lamps and that’s it, as it is so dark. And it’s very steep and rocky. We are staying close to the mountain side on our right. To our left is the sky…we are seeing that we are above the clouds….but a glimmer of the sun’s rays are about to be seen on the horizon. This moment was so silent to me. It was difficult to take photos or even video in this extreme darkness, so I do not have many photos.

11pm – we start to climb in the night!
It’s dark. We had our head lamps on.
And soooooo cold!
We put on every layer we had.
The sky was the most majestic…. Thousands of stars..
So bright and even falling ones.
A crescent moon that began to rise and stayed with us even after the sun showed.
And then after hours in the dark the sun just beginning to enter the sky.
All three at once…
#🌞#🌙#⭐ This was really special to me because I call my children this…and even when they see the sun or moon or stars they excitedly tell me to look and then smile bashfully because they know I see the light of these wonderous parts of the solar system in them.

We made it pretty far up in the dark.

#3250m baby!

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Sal and I really love this photo, I think because we are hiding our fatigue pretty well!
Mind you we hadn’t slept more than 4hours for the past 4 nights since we had arrived in Japan!
Because of the crowds during the night ascent there were moments where it bottlenecked…we had to wait a few seconds and then move…I totally nodded off a few times…my chin resting on my poles…I was soooooo badly sleep deprived.
This night climb was the worse and so difficult. My feet began to feel like lead, I couldn’t drag them.

I learned how strong my mind is. Because I only made it to the top because of will power. I honestly had nothing to give physically to this journey… nothing.
Just the strength of my mind and the courage in my heart that kept reminding me that I have some very special people in my life that love me immensely and believe in me… So I’m just going to do it for them.
Because honestly if it was just for me I was gonna check out! I’d be cool with that! I was soooooo done! I mean I just experienced every element of weather! I was exhausted and had no sleep! And I still saw some spiritually mind blowing cool stuff already. I’m good.


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Oh yah. We did have to walk back down.

It took us 5 hours to descend.

That was hard too. (Easier but hard)
And more than 9hours to get to the top in total. If I ever do it again…and I won’t… I would do it in the day and get a proper night’s sleep! (Going in, my biggest fear was altitude sickness but I didn’t experience that..surprisingly to me, my only issue was the sleep deprivation…I really wish I had banked more hours of sleep…I am used to operating on very little sleep so I thought this would be the same..but for a mountain climb, sleep is pretty important at least a few good night’s rest before the climb would have made a world of difference for me.)
Oh well.

Oh and we got these amazing walking sticks that we got stamped at different points along the journey marking how many metres we had climbed thus far. 6000 yen later!
Geez 🤦
But hey we looked like Samurai twins for two days! #worthit#iconvincemyself


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Our last moments with this sacred 🗻.
Many lessons learned for this life-long-learner x 2.  Both of us are in awe to this day.

The first day the rain and thick fog prevented us from seeing Mt Fuji at all. Maybe I wasn’t meant to see you until after I conquered you. After all who ever sees the success before the work is done.

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This is a beautiful landscape. The rocks are gorgeous…red…black…fine sand…hard rock…green plants…flowers….moss…I wish I had a geologist and an ecologist with me to explain it all.

I only see this trip through the eyes of Ayah, Essah, Charlize and Adeel. Imagining what they would do in these moments or say. It’s so surreal to be above the clouds looking at these beautiful faces so they can see where I am and what I’ve done. I won’t deny I shed many tears on this journey missing them. Many of them are scattered all over this mountain.
From the moment I was with you all, I have been waiting to return. Being away has been the single most hardest thing of my life. Somehow I had more strength climbing Mt Fuji than being apart from you. I didn’t know I was going to feel this way. I am never leaving again. You guys will have to leave me to see the world because I am never traveling without you all again. #wishiwashome #missmyfamily
I need you by my side @adeel.khan
I’m ruined… Can’t go anywhere unless at least one of you are with me!! Life is just better experienced for me when I can share it with you. #💔❤️ Just grateful to God mashaAllah that He brought me through this part of my life to understand how incredibly more beautiful the world and my life is because of my family. InshaAllah I will do something this epic again while watching my children and first love be in awe of it all as they stand right beside me. (But not Mt Fuji! I will never climb that again! Haha! That was freaking hard!) But at 40 this is my last selfish dream for myself. Those singular dreams are more complex now and encompassing of all the things that truly make me feel triumphant : my family.

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Wifi at the summit allowed me to call my family and show them where I was…felt like on top of the world. Writing this…even months later is emotional.

My Instagram post when I reached the summit:

I saw beautiful stars, a magnificent moon, and the most stunning sun, to make it to the summit of Mt. Fuji. #mysun #mystar #mymoon …my babies guiding me all the way.
Love you Sal for doing this journey with me. @salimasally
Thank you my love, for giving me courage. @adeel.khan  #currentsituation#alhumdulilah






Connecting Science to a Sense of Place

Science education is researched and discussed through many lenses. Scholarship discusses perspectives that range from inquiry-based, STSE frameworks (science, technology, society environment), socio-scientific issues, motivation, authentic science, traditional ecological knowledge, informal verses formal setting, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math; as art + design becoming increasingly more important elements to the discipline), community-referenced and more. All reveal balanced approaches to teaching and exploring scientific concepts, and have much merit for pedagogy in science education. I gather these perspectives and see how they compliment a lens I tend to lean more towards. The focus I lean on is place based practices, which connect scientific learning to the communities in which the students live and learn from.

In a recent interview for a video series with Trent University, I was asked what is a major challenge in science education now and how I propose we overcome it. I could have been very specific, but I kept it broad for our diverse student base. Thus in a very open response, I remarked that it was instilling motivation and interest in young students. The reason being is so their interest would carry forward with them to continue pursing studies in scientific subjects beyond the requirements of highschool, either into their professional careers, or into the choices they make in their personal lifestyles as citizens of the 21st Century. To be a scientifically literate person does not mean they are scientists, just confident knowledge bearers and skilful in problem solving, inquiry, experimentation and exploration. My proposal for this challenge is steeped in ways we can connect science to the issues that matter most to them in their communities and life. This promotes a place based approach to critical pedagogy. A critical place based approach, in my opinion, motivates learning because it gets student thinking more deeply about scientific issues as it relates to a myriad of relevant and meaningful connections, such as society, environment, cultures, health, politics, economy and history. Above all, this type of thinking and practice is imperative for students in order to prepare them for a more sustainable future. With these perspectives in mind, we will be more cognizant of the choices we make and the lifestyle we encourage, so as to protect the earth and its resources, and act sustainably.

Teachers have an important role in nurturing this kind of thinking. And in many cases they are doing phenomenal things that connect science in meaningful ways, and promotes critical thinking, sustainable action and compassion for all effected by the scientific and technological progression of our time.   They are teaching sustainability, they are using digital technologies to do so, and they are promoting inquiry, and the curiosities and wonderment that give way for innovation and inspiration. In the mean time, I continue to explore ways of enriching teacher practice and inspiring our young learners.

Here is the link to the video interview with Trent’s School of Education


I also include information for two of my favourite reads and what served as an introduction to place based education for me:

Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities

by David Sobel (Author) 2006

Place-Based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity by David A. Gruenewald (Editor), Gregory A. Smith (Editor) 2007

I just found this talk on youtube by David Sobel:


 @6:56 Sobel sums it up eloquently through a passage he reads that he interprets by saying:

“Place based education is a response to the ‘Berlin wall’ that’s been built between schools and the nearby environment and the communities.”

(The passage he read was “How My Schooling Taught Me Contempt for the Earth”. (1996), by Bill Bigelow).


Growth Mindset

According to Carol S. Dweck there are two sets of beliefs that people have about how students learn; 1) first is a fixed mindset, where some of us have the intellectual aptitude and some just do not and that’s that and 2) growth mindset where intelligence can be developed and everyone has the potential to grow intellectually. The mindset we each have can directly influence how we do in school. Research has shown that those with a growth mindset do better in school because they believe that they can achieve.

Mind-Sets and Equitable Education

Jo Boaler has set out the 7 positive norms of mathematics. One of the seven is to have the mindset that “mistakes are valuable”. When we make a mistake our brain starts firing synapses and when we try to fix the problem our brain development grows. If we shut down after a mistake we don’t activate our brain to keep searching for the possible answer, this is how a fixed mindset can hinder your success.

Positive Norms in Math Class

Here is a video on a researcher who studied how the brain is activated when we make mistakes.

what happens to your brain when you make a mistake

Ted Talk Video on Mindsets by Eduardo Briceno the Co-Founder of Mindsets Works www.mindsetworks.com

Eduardo Briceno



CBC Radio – Science Education

I had the pleasure of serving on a panel discussion on Science Education in Canada with David Blades Curriculum Theorist from the University of Victoria and Don Edwards Junior high science teacher at Westminster School in Edmonton.

Our guest host was the superb and brilliant Commander Chris Hadfield.

Check out the link to have a listen.

Link to interview with Chris Hadfield

@TheCurrentCBC @Cmndr_Hadfield

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?

Originally Gloria Ladson-Billing’s proposed a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy as she conducted research in a number of classrooms which had predominately African-American students. Ladson-Billings examined the intersection of teaching and culture as this theoretical model addresses “student achievement and also helps students to accept and affirm their cultural identity while developing critical perspectives that challenge inequities that schools and other institutions perpetuate” (Ladson-Billings, 1995). This research set the tone towards providing all teachers the knowledge base and theoretical framework for working with diverse student populations.

Later Geneva Gay states “culturally responsive pedagogy validates, facilitates, liberates and empowers ethnically diverse students by simultaneously cultivating their cultural integrity, individual abilities, and academic success (Gay, 2010). She goes on to state that culturally responsive pedagogy concurrently develops, “social consciousness and critique, cultural affirmation, competence and exchange, community building and personal connections, individual self-worth and abilities, and an ethic of caring” (Gay, 2010). As educators it is important to adopt a culturally responsive mindset in order to facilitate in a highly diverse environment and to reap the benefits of teaching in diverse school climates.

Educators need to develop within themselves a learning stance that embraces all of the above and view themselves as change agents in educating all students. When teachers adopt a culturally responsive mindset they become more self-aware and have a deep knowledge and understanding of their students and how they learn best and how to inform their practice to establish a culturally responsive classroom. When educators have a great understanding of their own present and historical cultural and social positions by questioning their own attitudes, beliefs and behaviours then they derive to a greater understanding of self. Ultimately they come to a greater understanding of others, their students in particular, and how social and cultural identities are formed by this. Therein lies the self-reflection that I needed to undertake in order to learn about my parents community and upbringing, how that affects my learning and how that impacted how others viewed me and how I viewed others.

A great definition of CRP:

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: The teaching and learning that integrates and nurtures students’ unique background knowledge, culture, home, family and community experiences to promote student achievement and cultural consciousness.

When we learn about our selves and about others we become less susceptible to the “Danger of a Single Story” as shared by Adichie Chimamanda Ted Talk, where we learn that when we hear or read one story we may perceive, make generalizations, or make stereotypes about people based on that one story.


Adichie Chimamanda is a popular novelist who has written Half a Yellow Sun, Americanah, Purple Hibiscus and others.  She is featured in another Ted Talks entitled “We should all be Feminists” and also has been featured in Beyoncé’s recent song Flawless.


Here I have created a smore on how I implemented Culturally Responsive  Pedagogy in a Grade 3 classroom.



Infusing Indigenous ways of knowing

So many words...which one catches your eye?

So many words…which one catches your eye?

Teacher Practice:

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.

Science Education:

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:

Click to access fnmiframework.pdf


Salima shared this with me, I have to read it but I thought I would post it:

Math Talk Community

Why is it acceptable to dismiss math by saying “I’m not good at math!” or “I suck at math, don’t ask me!” Society has made it ok to acknowledge freely that we are awful at math and it is completely normal. Once with my fellow colleagues, we were asked to watch a YouTube video of Patricia Heaton (from Everybody loves Raymond) on Who Wants to be a Millionaire where she had to answer a simple math equation. It seems quite comical because the problem is so simple but she gives up right away. Without even trying she uses up a lifeline that runs out of time. She exclaims “I am so bad at math!” Which seems a great place to hide behind so that she doesn’t have to begin the process of problem solving. I have to admit I do this all the time. I usually ask my husband to solve my simple math problems and when he tells me to try myself, I usually get annoyed saying “this is why I married you! To solve all my math problems so I don’t have to!” The great part of this video is that Regis then engages in “Math Talk” with Patricia and helps her think it through. She is finally able to get the correct answer all on her own. This clip is so powerful in sharing the capabilities we have when we are able to talk.

Here is the video which is a great clip to share in a classroom to elicit conversations about math anxiety, math talk, teaching and learning in math and triumph.

Here is the YouTube video on Patricia Heaton

Mathematical Discourse or Math Talk is an effective means for allowing students to explain, reason and discuss mathematical thinking with each other in meaningful ways. Allowing students opportunities to engage in math talk allows them take ownership when it comes to knowledge development, where students can learn from each other and dig deeper into a problem collectively. In addition math talk supports the student as a social learning and creates a community of learners who are comfortable and feel safe sharing their ups and downs as they engage in math activities.

The following is an excellent resource that shares strategies for classroom discussions in particular the use of “Talk Moves”

When students talk about mathematics in a purposeful way it reveals their understanding of concepts and the thinking behind their reasoning. Research shows that “asking students to talk (or use Talk Moves) about mathematical concepts, procedures, and problem solving helps students understand more deeply and with greater clarity” according to Chapin, O`Connor and Anderson.

Talk Moves are described as six key moves to help students engage in meaningful math talk;
1) Say More, ask students to elaborate
2) Revoicing, teacher repeats part or all of the students explanation and asks for verification of interpretation
3) Repetition, teacher ask students to restate someone else`s reasoning
4) Press for reasoning, teacher asks student to explain how or why they came to their solution
5) Do you Agree or Disagree, teacher asks students and also asks to justify why
6) Wait time, teacher allows quiet thinking time to develop responses

The following are some links on math talk research and key components within a Math-Talk Learning Community.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/studentsuccess/lms/mathTalk.pdf” title=”Math Talk Community”

Click to access mathtalk.pdf

Yours in Education,


The Time Machine

I suppose traveling back in time though the memories in my head will help me gain perspective on the present. I know I did not plan to be an educator. I did not plan to be an Assistant Professor. I did not plan to be a researcher.

Many years ago I attended the University of Toronto for my undergraduate studies. I wanted to be an Orthodontist. My father was a welder, I liked the idea of working with metals. Malleable metals. Different gauges. Wire cutters. Put them on some teeth, tighten them up and watch your teeth move. Actually seeing progress – the perfect smile. I enrolled in sciences and my specialist was Biology. I volunteered at the orthodontic office by my home. I was well on my way to fulfilling my dream and going to Dental school.

I was busily taking courses to fulfill my degree requirements and found myself in one course that changed the path of my life. In the third year of undergrad I took a course called Marine Biology and there was a research component that took the whole class to Barbados to conduct research at the McGill Research Institute. I was studying ghost crabs, and my lab partner and I stayed up all night catching and observing them. The humidity and salty sea water would rust the lab equipment. The cook whipped up the best seafood for our meals. When the moon was in the crescent phase it hung in the sky like the smile of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Our first night we caught a few crabs and kept them in a pail over night only to find a war zone in the morning. Tattered bodies and lost limbs. We learned they were a territorial species a little too late. The purple band of hair that I had through my bangs faded in the extreme sun within four days. Professor Dudley Williams lectured on the science of the tides. I loved everything about this.

I’m straying from my original dream…

When I returned home I enrolled in another research based Biology course studying fish behaviour in convict cichlids – Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum. People would say ‘you sit around and observe fish…. behaving?’ Indeed. Perhaps they thought this research was a curiosity I was satisfying, but animal behavioural research helps us understand how to protect these species from climate change, habitat destruction and environmental concerns. We understand their patterns, their mating, their system at such an intricate level – it’s the best way for us to know how to protect them and gives us new perspectives to critically think of ourselves . We learn from them. This I learned from the best Biology Professor I ever had, Dr. Daryl Gwynne.

My mind wanders…dental school is fading…

While doing this research I realized that the public understanding of science and different avenues of science exploration was underappreciated and misunderstood, well not all aspects but a little in the fish study department. So, I went to Queen’s University in Northern Ireland to study Science Communication and how the public engages with scientific phenomena. But in doing my thesis work for that Masters in Science, I realized it really starts with young learners who are molded into critical thinkers who become caring citizens and members of the local and global community. They appreciate scientific research, seek knowledge and understanding from various perspectives, and can enact change if need be.

Orthodontics is lost…sorry Dad…

So I went to York University and did my PhD in Science Education. I wanted to start with young minds, expose them to some amazing science and nurture their engagement and motivation. I encouraged them to focused on caring for their environment and investigating socio-scientific issues that were personal to their lives and their communities. I’m pretty proud of the research I did, and indebted to Dr. Steve Alsop for guiding me. (Actually, I have crossed paths with the greatest academic mentors ever– I’m blessed). My research was a visual journey connecting science and community. Once I finished my doctorate I knew Education was the discipline I wanted to be in. And here I am…. learning everyday and dreaming up new goals.



My baby sister made me this cake when I passed my Oral Comps Exam.
It’s nice to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way with a slice of home baked cake. 


From Great to Excellent

During an interview today with a Middle School, the Principal shared with me something I was not familiar with. The 6 C’s in education as means for educating the 21st Century Learner. Of course I needed to learn more about what this is, so I did a little research and uncovered this document by Dr. Michael Fullan.

Click to access FullanReport_EN_07.pdf

Dr. Fullan is a worldwide authority on Education who has written numerous books including “Stratosphere”, “Putting Faces on the Data” and “the Morale Imperative of School Leadership”. This document was created to discuss what needs to being done to continue to increase student achievement in literacy, numeracy. Namely two core aspects must continue, 1) Sustaining Improvement and 2) Focused Innovation.

It is in focused innovation that the 6 C’s are presented on a wheel.

1. Character Education
2. Citizenship
3. Communication
4. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
5. Collaboration
6. Creativity and Imagination


The goal of the 6 C’s is to better equip students with the values, structures and tools to communicate, collaborate and be creative. To become critical thinkers and have the ability to solve world problems and yet be humane and care about others and their environment by building genuine character and citizenship. If we can instil all these values as educators then student success will increase academically and professionally as the graduate and enter the workforce. As social learners the 6 C’s hits all the right chords to the ideal being now as educators we need create this ideal educational environment. I believe this can be done! It has to be!

Yours in Education, Salima