This week, Get Real! Science continued the doctoral students’ mini-lessons with Yang, Saliha, and I presenting themes around the cultivation of identity, respect, and indigenous knowledge in science education. These themes are intrinsic to building equity and expanding the reach of “science knowing” in our (geo)science classrooms. In an earlier blog addressing “How do we learn (geo)science?” the theory of social constructivism was invoked which places identity within what Sfard and Prusak (2005)1 describe as the “… complex dialectic between learning and its sociocultural context”. Respect enters the social constructivist learning environment through actions made toward others’ being, understandings, and values.2 These two themes, and others, prime social constructivism for the integration of indigenous knowledge (henceforth, IK) into (geo)science education!
Indigenous knowledge (IK)
A key constituent of IK is an intimacy with land over some durable timeframe during which narratives about the natural world around indigenous people are passed along the generations.4 IK is not what some might perceive as trial-and-error, but is rather informed trial-and-error, which Michie (2002) emphasizes from his studies of the Aboriginal People of Australia.5 There are fascinating accounts of indigenous peoples’ experimentation in agriculture and medicine, among others, that are abundant in the literature, including Michie’s work (also see Colin Turnbull’s study of the Mbuti Pygmies in The Forest People, and Louis Sarno’s life with the BaAka Pygmies in the documentary film, Song From the Forest, for many examples of IK in practice, while noting that both of these works have been subject to criticism for ‘caricaturization’, among other ‘offenses’).
Louis Sarno, Ethno-musicologist, lived among the BaAka Pygmies in Central Africa.6
Where IK sits in relation to Western science is a contentious topic — just where does IK fit? One answer might be that it fits as an additional way of knowing 13 and a way for (geo)science educators to depict science without “hegemonic cultural divides” 7that can appear. IK is a window into science left primarily outside of the Western canon, but whose branches can be tapped for invaluable resources and deeper insight into the origins and nature of science.4 As you watch the video of Elisabet Sahtouris describing her impressions of IK, consider some of these comments and how you might translate them into your (geo)science curriculum. I hope the video fills you with wonder, as it has for me, and you are already formulating ways to work on the “third leg of the stool”.8
Indigenous science — Professor Elisabet Sahtouris, evolution biologist, futurist, and author in an excerpt from SAND Anthology Vol. 2., Published on May 18, 2015.8
IK and Western knowledge
The inclusion of IK in curriculum should not be tokenistic or caricaturized, as stressed by some researchers, although this might be a forever elusive ideal.4,9 Returning to the Man in the Maze symbol shown at the beginning of this blog, I have little idea of its authentic history and meaning. Displaying it might neglect some deeper meaning, or perhaps reduce it to something to be admired for art’s sake. As educators, we can dig deeper into IK research during our pedagogy and curriculum planning to make these determinations – one way to exercise our practice of respect.2 Just think of the additional learning opportunities this holds for us!
Sami school children. 10
Keane (2008)11and others seeking distinction and commonalities between indigenous and Western ideas of identity, as depicted in the diagram below, contrast these world views12with implications for us to recognize these different and “complicated perceptual fields” through our emerging skills in professional noticing, a skill you’ve hopefully been working on from a previous blog. For example, perhaps when presenting a geoscience topic, such as earthquakes, your lesson can include aspects from both IK and Western knowledge, and then the “third leg” to serve as a common meeting point in the tension between these two canons, possibly revealing the historical hegemony that often excludes or usurps what IK had sometimes already revealed.4. But bear in mind that Michie (2002) and others suggest that the best objective might be to “promote consideration of the worldviews, not solely to enrich Western science but to facilitate a two-way exchange of knowledge and of cultural understanding”, and what Bang and Medin (2010)13describe as having learners adopt multiple epistemologies of (geo)science.
Indigenous vs. Western knowledge (Modified and adapted from Baker, 2016, citing Nisbett, 2003).14 The Common Ground overlap can be thought of as Sahtouris’ “third leg of the stool”.7
The Third Leg of the Stool8
By now you should be grounded in how (geo)science is learned, the role of language, culture, identity, and argumentation, while developing professional vision in this learning. As you release the bowlines and sail to your teaching and learning destinations, take the “third leg” idea with you and blend it with identity development and practices of respect so that your (geo)science classrooms become aware of the contributions to science from indigenous ways of knowing as well as the knowing from Western (geo)science.
Building local content into curriculum can help to foster positive identity among your students.10
Making time for professional development in IK can help to map the different ways of knowing, or the “figured worlds”15, needed in pedagogy and curriculum to both educate non-indigenous learners and to foster positive identities for indigenous learners. Social constructivism is at the heart of our (geo)science education efforts. Mary Atwater’s (1996)16 work on the role of social constructivism in multicultural science education emphasizes the need for science education researchers to open their worlds to local content and other ways of knowing.
Role-playing activities are great ways to introduce indigenous knowledge into your classroom!10
Moreover, a number of other social constructivists encourage us to “come to grips with the essential issues of culture, power, and discourse in the classroom17, and enter (even if role-playing) a community and its culture to challenge dominant assumptions18that might, in fact, have origins in IK. Give yourself time to try new approaches to foster positive identity and respect, and to bring in IK into your teaching repertoire!
Indigenous school children. 10
As this marks the last post for the semester, I hope you enjoyed my blog and the content over the past few months inspires you to find new practices to teaching and learning in (geo)science. Even if this is the end of the trail for my blog, the Get Real! Science blogs continue — keep exploring and learning the latest in reform-based science education from Get Real! Science’s dedicated and caring teaching experts and practitioners who are inspiring students, transforming science classrooms, and improving our public schools every day! I thank my Get Real! Science cohort for their friendship, and the many learning opportunities and information sharing. And I especially thank Dr. April Luehmann for our excellent course and this blog space, both of which opened my mind to science education reform theories and methodologies — gifts that will be of great importance for the future.
Sami tokenism? Reflect on your lesson content, and while realizing it may never be free of caricaturization, you will have researched the material to prevent it as much as possible.19
Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!
Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS)
The Peoples of the World Foundation
Colin Turnbull, Anthropologist — The Forest People
Turnbull, C. M. (1961). The Forest People. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Louis Sarno, Song from the Forest (on Amazon Prime, friends!)
Obert, M., Sarno, L., Bokombe, S. M., & Tondowski Films & Friends. (2015). Song from the forest. Mühlenberge, Germany: Tondowski Films & Friends.
Defining Indigenous Knowledge (Theory of Knowledge.net)
1Sfard, A., & Prusak, A. (2005). Telling identities: In search of an analytic tool for investigating learning as a culturally shaped activity. Educational Researcher, 34, 14-22.
2Slaton, A. & Calabrese Barton, A. (2012) Out of Place: Indigenous Knowledge in the Science Curriculum. In: Fraser B., Tobin K., McRobbie C. (eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education, vol 24. Springer, Dordrecht.
3Man in the Maze. Retrieved from http://superstitionmountainmuseum.org/attractions/labyrinth/
4McKinley, E. & Stewart, G. (2012) Out of Place: Indigenous Knowledge in the Science Curriculum. In: Fraser B., Tobin K., McRobbie C. (eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Springer International Handbooks of Education, vol 24. Springer, Dordrecht.
5Michie, M. (2002). Why indigenous science should be included in the school science curriculum. Australian Science Teachers Journal, 48(2), 36–41.
7Aikenhead, G. S., & Ogawa, M. (2007). Indigenous knowledge and science revisited. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2(3), 539–620.
8Indigenous science, Elisabet Sahtouris —YouTube video. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/d1Wx4PIh4ZQ
9Jocks, C. (1998). Living words and cartoon translation: Longhouse “texts” and the limitations of English. In L. A. Grenoble & L. J. Whaley (Eds.), Endangered languages: Current issues and future prospects(pp. 217-233). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
10Indigenous school children. Retrieved from http://cdnsba.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/hi-aboriginal-students-852.jpg; http://isca.edu.au//wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Araluen-72_0335_EDIT.jpg; https://www.wsws.org/asset/e5a7e810-16ee-4adc-a311-221d23f1415C/image.jpg?rendition=image480; https://aboriginalincursions.com.au/images/resized/e8cf577234776ed6791b6af96736dc2b/Koomurri-Aboriginal-School-Incursions—18.jpg;
11Keane, M. (2008). Science education and worldview. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3(3), 587–613.
12Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional vision. American anthropologist, 96(3), 606-633.
13Bang, M., & Medin, D. (2010). Cultural processes in science education: Supporting the navigation of multiple epistemologies. Science Education, 94(6), 1008–1026. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20392
14Baker, J. J. (2016). Learning to relate: An exploration of indigenous science education (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0223887
15Tan, E., & Barton, A. C. (2008). From peripheral to central, the story of Melanie’s metamorphosis in an urban middle school science class. Science Education, 92(4), 567–590. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20253
16Atwater, M. M. (1996). Social Constructivism : Infusion into the Multicultural Science Education Research Agenda, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(8), 821–837.
17O’Loughlin, M. (1992). Rethinking science education: Beyond Piagetian constructivism toward a sociocultural model of teaching and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29(8), 791-820.
18Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educ. Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.
19Santa and reindeer. Retrieved from https://cdn.hipwallpaper.com/i/53/41/nPHWL4.jpg