Plate Tectonics and Indigenous Ways of Knowing

My first impression of WISE is that there are a lot of opportunities. I enjoy that students are able to receive feedback quickly. The layout is very conducive for building on previous knowledge. While I am not a fan of multiple choice, I see how it could easily show a snapshot of student content knowledge allowing us to see if students were on the right track. I struggled with adding some images to the “remixed” plan and general editing  – perhaps this would be easier if I was starting from scratch. Overall, WISE forces the educator to examine their PCK and scaffold the learning experience for their students.

After my exploration of the WISE library for Grades 6-8, I chose to customize Plate Tectonics ID 6311. This WISE explores a number of important areas: earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountains. The summary states: “ Students investigate geologic patterns in the United States, then delve deeper into Earth’s layers to understand how surface features and events arise from invisible inner processes”. I chose this particular WISE because I have enjoyed teaching plate tectonics in the past. While I liked this start of this project and the scaffolding it provided for students by accessing their background knowledge (Linn, Clark, and Slotta, 2002), I chose to add Big Ideas, Guiding Questions, and First Peoples Ways of Knowing from the B.C. Science 8 Curriculum (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2017). I decided to add this into the Introduction to provide more of a framework for this WISE project and to add some depth and discussion to the content. I also began to add Canadian content (maps, statistics, etc) to make it more relevant to our B.C. learners.

The framework I used was: Keeping the First Peoples Ways of Knowing in mind students will respond to the Guiding Questions:

How can different ways of knowing complement our understanding of earthquakes and other geological activity? 

How can scientists benefit from studying the earth’s changing geology from a First People’s perspective?

In what ways do traditional narratives about geologic events from the past contain important understandings about the Earth’s changing geological history?

(First Nations Education Steering Committee, 2015).

Using the information provided in the current WISE, and from outside sources (First Nations Education Steering Committee, 2015) that I started to add, students will research and create their own narrative to share – one that is influenced by story and science. Students can use the WISE program to capture their thinking, reflections, and planning (Williams, Linn, Ammon, & Gearhart, 2004) as they work through this narrative. Students would have the opportunity to individualize their story but pull from scientific concepts. Prior to presenting this WISE to students, I would continue adding First Peoples knowledge of geological formations and local geological events from other resources, as well as Canadian maps and images. Perhaps the addition of oral histories, or ways geological events have been represented in art would also be included. Adding First Peoples Ways of Knowing is just a start and something I have only just started thinking about, but it is something that I believe could be very powerful in a format such as WISE and one I would like to explore beyond ETEC 533.



British Columbia Ministry of Education (2017). Science 8

First Nations Education Steering Committee (2015). Science First Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide (Grades 5-9).

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2002). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

Williams, M., Linn, M.C., Ammon, P., & Gearhart, M. (2004). Learning to Teach Inquiry    Science in a Technology-Based Environment: A Case Study. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 13(2), 189-206.




  1. Thanks for sharing on how different perspectives can be introduced using WISE. I remember from one of the articles how sometimes online interactivities speed up time for brevity, resulting in student misconceptions that plate tectonics occurs rather slowly compared to what animations usually show. I wonder if you experienced this while playing with WISE, and if so, what could be done to remove misconceptions?


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your reply. I did not experience that while playing with WISE – perhaps because I have the knowledge around plate tectonics that I have gained from years of teaching experience, my own formal education, and many viewings of videos on the subject! However, your point that misconceptions can and do occur is a very valid point! In approaching this with students I have always taken the honest approach – that it would be impossible, due to time, to see exactly how long changes take to occur. There are all sorts of time-lapse videos that students now view (or make) that do show changes over time – perhaps there is a sim with plate tectonics, but I have not used one for plate tectonics (I haven’t taught it for a few years now). Great question!

  2. I like the fact that you brought in storytelling into the science curriculum.

    I wonder if you could explore the multiple choice idea more. I am currently playing around with Articulate Storyline for my online high school science content. I took a paragraph that discussed the Atomic Number and made the content more engaging (I hope). Here is the text

    science text

    and here for the Articulate Storyline (SL) version of the above text

    I shared this with my students and everyone said the SL was more engaging and they would rather go through the SL then read the text. Guess what some of the senior students also said.

    A good next step might be to share an exemplary product that student has created.


    1. Hi Christopher,

      Multiple choice questions are, in my opinion, good for checking factual knowledge. Trying out your Articulated Storyline version of the text (which was quite engaging!) and one of your questions was: “How many protons does the element carbon have”? I was limited to 5 choices and could quickly assess that whether I knew that information or not (thankfully I did!!). However, MC questions can be limiting in what information we can assess. A question such as: “Mrs. Roberts has said that Carbon has 4 protons. Is she correct? Why or why not. Explain your thinking.” should have students realize the error of my ways and remedy it with their knowledge and application of that knowledge.
      When I have taught atomic theory with my grade 8s, I have asked students to explain to my why carbon is located where it is on the periodic table. How does the number of protons and electrons influence it’s location? How is it different from it’s neighbours boron and nitrogen?

      Multiple choice does allow for a quick snapshot of knowledge of content areas (and yes the marking is MUCH easier….) but not necessarily an understanding of the content. If multiple choice is thoughtfully structured, it can be one tool for assessment. Otherwise the answers can be easily googled 🙂 As with all forms of assessment, educators need to know what we are assessing – that can help drive the types of assessment tools we chose to use. Multiple choice is just one of the tools.

      Just my two cents!

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