Author Archives: susan beeley

Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Science – Susan Beeley

In working though my final research paper one of the remarkable discoveries I made was the increasingly important role that traditional knowledge is playing in the environmental sciences and resource management.  This makes sense given the value Aboriginal populations bestow upon “place” and the collection of information and data through observation that is passed orally from one generation to the next for hundreds of years.  The recognition of the valuable contribution that traditional knowledge can make to the sciences has resulted in greater collaborative efforts when designing policy  or making decisions.

West Coast Environmental Law Blog

While this particular blog is from 2015, it discusses the experience of a lawyer who was invited to speak at a conference on “Best Practices in the Use of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in Resource Management”  which was held in the Yukon.  Some of the questions asked at the conference included:

  • What does Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) provide to wildlife management that science-based knowledge does not?
  • How can scientists and ATK holders better communicate and work with each other?
  • How is ATK best documented, communicated and shared?
  • What institutional arrangements and prejudices exist that undermine or disadvantage the treatment and use of ATK in research and resource-management decision-making? How could these obstacles be overcome?
  • Where findings from science and ATK-based research conflict, how could these differences be addressed?

Where ATK is being given this sort of focus out in the “real world”, it occurs to me that we really must be doing more to expose students to ATK and encourage them to be open minded about the value of ATK and perspectives other than Western Science.

Assembly of First Nations:  First Nations Ethics Guide on Research and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (PDF)

This paper was written for the purposes of discussion only, it is not an official document.  Despite this, in light of our readings about issues that surround both the research methods used by settlers to uncover information about “other”, and the issues around use or mis-use of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, this document provides some groundwork for understanding so that collaboration can be successful and mutually beneficial.

Aboriginal Women and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK)

This document specifically discusses the important role that women play in environmental stewardship the transmission of ATK particularly where it pertains to information around natural resources and their use in healing, health and well being.  Further, it provides an opportunity for Aboriginal Women to voice their concerns to Environment Canada about what aspects of ATK are of greatest importance/concern.  Women’s role in producing better environmental outcomes in the areas of   wildlife research,  decisions made under the Species at Risk Act, environmental and ecosystem monitoring, and other environmental and wildlife conservation activities has been recognized and rationale is provided for continuing to draw on their input as part of the decision making process.

Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards

The Seas community initiative  provides local programs designed to “engage, develop, prepare and empower Indigenous youth to become the next generation of stewards in their communities and territories.”  These programs integrate Western Science and ATK and involve both classroom and summer internship components.  The programs are a truly collaborative and cooperative community effort, drawing on the skills and knowledge of administration, Elders, teachers and community members in order to support the students’ learning journey.

TRACKS Youth Program

TRent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science (TRACKS)  provides summer camp opportunities to Aboriginal communities and outreach activities year round.  Like Seas, Traditional Knowledge and Western science are integrated and the value of introducing students to such an integrated approach has been recognized.  And so, the aims of the camps and outreach programs are to:

  • Instill a sense of pride for Indigenous Knowledge systems
  • Help students understand the interconnectedness of all living things
  • Demonstrate the balance of cultural values and scientific inquiry
  • Introduce youth to diverse knowledge systems and fields of study
  • Connect youth with strong, motivated and dynamic mentors
  • Encourage youth to think about math and science skills as potentially valuable skills in achieving their future goals.


Module 3: Outreach and Importance of Place – Susan Beeley

This learning module has, among other things, considered what Aboriginal youth are looking for from education, and how curriculum can be tailored to meet their needs.  One of the issues that came up for me was the reluctance of youth to leave their homes, whether this is due to the people, or their sense of place.  This becomes problematic when these young people are missing out on opportunities for both education and employment as a result.  My contributions focus on outreach to support youth in more remote regions,  but also to recognize the importance of place in educating all Aboriginal youth, regardless of physical location.

Outreach for remote teaching:

InSTEM: Indigenous Youth in STEM

Through summer camps, workshops, clubs and community outreach Actua engages students in STEM subjects.  Though they recognize that the job market is ever-changing, they endeavor to create programs related to current and relevant areas within STEM and provide these programs to remote areas.

Aboriginal Access to Engineering (Queen’s University)

Another member of the Actua group, this program is run through Queen’s University and provides information and resources to engage elementary students, high school students and even adults with careers in engineering.  Material is made available online so even those in remote areas can access the program.

Recognizing the importance of Place:

Promise of Place

This website provides a vast number of resources for teachers and is designed to encourage and support the role of place based learning in education.

Stewarts of the Future

This pdf outlines a government initiative to support stewardship and sustainability in BC’s education system.  In addition to describing the desired outcomes of the initiative, activities and information on how to get involved are provided.

Science World, Vancouver

BC Green Games provides information on what place based learning is and also has full units that are designed to encourage youth to connect to where they live by engaging them in projects that promote greener, local living.

M2: Cross-Cultural Science Teaching. Susan Beeley

I have, at this point, decided to stick to where the majority of my experience lies and work with Math and Science teaching and how to best give Indigenous ways of knowing value and authenticity within these subjects (though I will likely focus on Science).  For this reason I have spent the past few weeks trying to academically familiarize myself with some of the key foundations I am hoping my assignment will be based on.  My resources are, as a result, largely academic/scholarly papers.

Website: Siwal Si’wes Library

This is a digital collection of resources made available through Mission Public School District.  The intent is to support teachers as they attempt to integrate authentic Aboriginal knowledge and beliefs with the content of   BC’s new curriculum.  In addition to providing resources to support curriculum it has a wealth of information for anyone wanting to better understand how Aboriginal content enhances curriculum content.

Paper: Indigenous Knowledge and Science Revisited

This is another paper by Glen Aikenhead.  This paper is a “guided tour” through three different ways of knowing science and nature (Eurocentric, Indigenous, and neo-indigenous (many Asian nations).  The paper does a great job out outlining the key differences, of interest here, between Eurocentric and Indigenous ways of approaching both knowledge and what it means, and what it is to live in nature.  If further goes on to suggest some practical ways that the two views can be taught through the premise of two-eyed seeing, though this link is not explicitly made.  A summary paper of the key differences can be found at Two-eyed seeing: a cross-cultural science journey.

Paper: Two-Eyed Seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing.

This paper outlines the unfolding of the Integrated Sciences program at Cape Breton University.  This program was intended to put science learning into an Indigenous context in order to encourage Indigenous people to engage with and pursue further education and careers in science given a  recent history of limited numbers.  The central premise of the program was two-eyed seeing as presented by elder Albert Marshall.

Paper:  Sense of Place in the Practice and Assessment of Place Based Science Teaching.

Resources prior to this one have been focused largely on exploring the difference between Eurocentric Science and Indigenous ways of knowing in science.  A major difference between the two is the importance given to “place”.  If we are to integrate the two approaches to “science” successfully it provides an excellent starting point from which we can move forward in linking both approaches to the local environment and community.

Paper: A Deeper Sense of Place

This paper takes a more intimate look at how research in the field of science can draw upon the knowledge of local Indigenous populations to carry out truly collaborative research.  A number of topics are covered in the book, but the chapters that are of most interest to me involve consideration of climate change and of resource management.

Module 1 Weblog – Susan Beeley

I am still working towards selecting a particular area of interest for my research but two seem likely.  The first is based on my recent experience teaching in an alternative learning center.  I work with at-risk youth and a disproportionately large number of our students (45%, far greater than the % of students throughout the district) are identified by the school district as having Aboriginal ancestry.  We spend a lot of our time making social and emotional connections with the students and follow many of Dr. Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage teachings.  These teachings apply to all at-risk youth as many of them, Aboriginal or otherwise, feel a great disconnect with the community around them and this has, in many ways, contributed to their educational and life struggles.  The second possible theme of interest to me is based on 16 years experience teaching science and math based on curriculum that very much views aboriginal content as an add-on (something that became very obvious to me while marking the solar system module in a grade 8 science workbook last week).  While the new BC Curriculum offers hope for improvement by allowing a more constructivist approach to teaching and learning teachers still need to reflect upon and embrace change if it is to be successful.

Journal Article: Native Wisdom on Belonging by Dr. Martin Brokenleg

  • This link will take you to a PDF file that outlines the key developmental needs of children as presented in the Circle of Courage: Mastery, Belonging, Generosity and Independence.  These needs are compared to the value system set up by Western cultures and the importance of each is outlined.  This is a great starting point for those interested in adhering to the philosophy “it takes a village to raise a child” and developing this culture in their classroom.  A beautiful poster and summary can also be found by clicking the link.

Website:  Martin Brokenleg

  • This website contains information about cultural healing and resilience.  It is a great place to start for those looking for an understanding of the issues faced by Aboriginal populations and the role that educators can play in helping to overcome some of these issues.  The website has links to articles, power points from presentation, and Dr. Brokenleg’s summarised thoughts on different topics of interest.

Journal Article: Integrating Western and Aboriginal Sciences: Cross-Cultural Science Teaching by Glen Aikenhead

  • This article discusses the power differential that exists for Aboriginal students in a science classroom.  Practical research that offers an alternative approach that moves away from “enculturation” is introduced and a new way of teaching science is presented.  In this new approach teachers “play the role of a tour-guide culture broker” making clear to students the language that they are speaking (western science or Aboriginal science) so that students can move between the two languages without one being seen as superior to the other.

Website:  Institute for Integrated Science and Health

  • This website out of Cape Breton University helps us to “view science in a broadened and culturally inclusive way”, and is guided by the principle of Two-eyed seeing.  The website has a vast array of resources to support a changing view of science education that have to be seen and explored to be believed.

Blog: Aboriginal Mathematics K-12 Network

  • This is a great website/blog out of UBC for anyone who is hoping to introduce Aboriginal ways of knowing into the Math curriculum.  There is information on symposiums, ideas and lessons, and resources to support teachers.  Though the primary contributor seems to be Cynthia Nichol, this webpage offers hope to those of us who need some guidance with authentic ways to incorporate Aboriginal ways of knowing into the math curriculum.  It offers an amazing platform for knowledgeable individuals to share ideas and resources to support educators.