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Approaches to Aboriginal education include approaches to Aboriginal culture. Teaching within this context necessitates knowledge of Aboriginal culture and of Aboriginal ways of knowing. Teachers with little or no knowledge of Aboriginal culture may have difficulty teaching Aboriginal content. However, many guiding principles may be successfully applied in teaching Aboriginal content. Although the approaches suggested here apply mainly to science classrooms, they may have a more universal application to many different subject classrooms. Generally, the main points briefly outlined here include the general concepts of: including Elder teachings, involving the whole community, infusing Aboriginal content into the subject, and including the use of native language in the classroom. Further to these main approaches, many attending sub concepts can be developed. These approaches are included in the subsections that are available through the links in the frame to the left.

Aboriginal Overview

Scientific knowledge about events in the natural world has an early history. Indigenous people depended on accurate predictions of natural events to ensure their survival. One of the basic assumptions today for regarding the inclusion of FNMI (First Nations, Métis & Inuit) knowledge in the Alberta Science Program Outcomes is that elements of this knowledge are scientific. If science is defined as knowledge about the natural world (p.28, Biology 20 Program Outcomes), then areas of both western scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge can be combined to inform students about natural events. Another basic assumption, in addressing the question of ‘Why infuse traditional knowledge into the science curriculum?’, is that an indigenous worldview and a western scientific worldview both operate under different paradigms or belief systems. Access to knowledge about the natural world from both perspectives occurs where these two knowledge systems intersect.

Before examples of FNMI science can be ‘infused’ into the curriculum, students and teachers will need to establish their basic conceptual framework of these two knowledge systems: that of western science and that of indigenous knowledge. This framework will include concepts of, for example, how an Aboriginal worldview differs from and how it is similar to the western scientific one (see References). For example, from the western scientific worldview, knowledge is implicit and theoretical whereas other valid ways of knowing (i.e., indigenous knowledge) often include experiential knowledge. Western scientific methodology uses the experience of laboratory experimentation to test or prove hypothesis. Indigenous knowledge is grounded in experience where experience is regarded in the natural world as a part of it, not apart from it. This scientific knowledge is called tacit knowledge by Polyani (cited in Peat, 2002, p. 66).

The full Word file is available for download below.

Aboriginal Pedagogy

Approaches to Aboriginal education include approaches to Aboriginal culture. Teaching within this context necessitates knowledge of Aboriginal culture and of Aboriginal ways of knowing. Teachers with little or no knowledge of Aboriginal culture may have difficulty teaching Aboriginal content. However, many guiding principles may be successfully applied in teaching Aboriginal content. Although the approaches suggested here apply mainly to science classrooms, they may have a more universal application to many different subject classrooms. Generally, the main points briefly outlined here include the general concepts of: including Elder teachings, involving the whole community, infusing Aboriginal content into the subject, and including the use of native language in the classroom. Further to these main approaches, many attending sub concepts can be developed. These approaches are included in the subsections that are available through the links in the left.

Greg Cajete (1999) suggests 10 key points in implementing Aboriginal epistemology in the classroom:

  1. Put young people in touch with their cultural selves and their inner sense of learning
  2. Facilitate student’s realization of the earth as the ultimate source of human, plant and animal life
  3. Get students to discover the beauty and complexity of nature
  4. Bring students back in touch with their cultural roots, the land plants and animals
  5. Get students to learn how various Aboriginal people made a ‘living” from the land which students call home
  6. Get students to learn practical skills of western and Aboriginal sciences in a sustainable relationship to the natural world
  7. Plan for student learning along the following lines: bonding, trust, storyline (relating to an aspect of western science), sharing and caring, looking inward, and self reliance
  8. give students an opportunity to learn western science in relation to a cultural perspective and a worldview which mediates between students and their learning western science:
    1. explore cultural roots
    2. develop an historical perspective and empathy for the practices of Aboriginal science
    3. build upon the inherent strengths of Aboriginal philosophy and environmental knowledge
    4. participate in your community’s cultural activities where appropriate
    5. learn and practice tribal arts
    6. learn and play Aboriginal games
    7. Investigate how students learn science ideas

Download Aboriginal Pedagogy — general approaches

A recent initiative by Alberta Education to ‘infuse’ aboriginal content into the curriculum has created a number of challenges for science teachers. Courses in senior high sciences incorporate Aboriginal perspectives in order to develop in all students an appreciation of the cultural diversity, and achievements of FNMI peoples. The courses are designed to:

  • acknowledge the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to understandings of the natural world;
  • support relational thinking by integrating learning from various disciplines in science;
  • develop the concept of humankind’s connectivity to the natural world and foster an appreciation for the importance of caring for the environment (Alberta Education 2007).

Lessons developed in this project to date include Alberta Biology 20 and Elementary curriculum resources. See the link to these resources in the frame to the left. Future work on this project should see further resource develop in biology and other science and mathematics courses. If you wish to contribute resources (especially lesson plans) to this project contact Frank Elliott at felliott@ualberta.ca.

For initial lesson development we chose a very specific part of the science curriculum – Biology 20. These units of study in the Alberta Biology 20 Curriculum include Unit A: Energy and Matter Exchange in the Biosphere, Unit B: Ecosystems and Population Change, Unit C: Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration, and Unit D: Human Systems. The following resources, developed by Tracy Onuczko (Blood) were field tested for use in her biology classroom. They can be modified for individual teacher use, depending on the science classroom context.

The organization of the materials below are by topic; i.e., ecology, biosphere, animals, plants, global warming, sustainability, health and disease, and general outcomes, respectively.

Using the above topics as organizers, downloadable resources and Internet links are provided for applicable Alberta Education curriculum outcomes.

See the downloadable resources below. Start with the overview document called Aboriginal Lesson Resources. Each of the downloadable resources is mentioned in this overview document.

The following resources were developed by student teachers in the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP). This was part of an EDEL 330 assignment to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives. They represent sample student lesson plans which utilise an Aboriginal science point of view. The authors have shared these in order for teachers to use or modify in their own community. The names of the authors and specific author requests are to be honoured when using this material.

Title: Human activity and wetland ecosystems

Audience: Grade 5/6

Authors: Priscilla Cardinal, Melissa Cardinal, Lynette Stone, Carole Kamieniecki

PDF Version

Title: Let's Approach Science from an Aboriginal Perspective

Audience: Grade 5/6

Authors: Shannon Houle & Crystal Lameman

Author's request: Explicit instructions on the Aboriginal sacredness and respect is required for this material. If non-Indigenous people wish to use it, the authors request an Indigenous Elder or Traditional Indigenous person be consulted and/or present. It must remain with good intentions & never exploited.

PDF Version

Title: Color: Where it all Began

Audience: Grade 1

Author: Joyce Vandermaas

PDF Version

Title: Useful References and Links

Audience: All grades

These references have been used by science student teachers in the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program). Student teachers are encouraged to submit more recent references for updates as they appear. Submissions can be sent to Dr. Frank Elliott (felliott@ualberta.ca) or to CMASTE (cmaste@ualberta.ca).

Word Version

The IANAS Science Education Program

IANAS (Inter American Network of Academies of Science) is a network dedicated to strengthening and empowering science communities in the hemisphere. One of the ways that IANAS aims to achieve this is through enhancing human resource development in science, technology and health by improving the quality of science education.

IANAS was established in 2004 and, since its inception, has initiated active programs in science education in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean. The programs include development of context-appropriate materials for classroom programs, evaluation of classroom programs, professional development training for teachers, and collaborative, intercountry workshops and conferences.

In the field of science education, Canada is perceived to offer expertise, and requests to make short visits to science education centres for the purpose of capacity building are made frequently. CMASTE has served as a focal centre for Canadian participation in the IANAS Science Education Program, as illustrated by the following activities:

  • hosting key representatives from Central and South America and from the Caribbean for an IANAS annual meeting (2005)
  • hosting elementary and secondary science teachers from the Caribbean, Bolivia, and Guatemala, for professional development seminars and school visits
  • contributing to the preparation of reports focused on the evaluation of inquiry-based science education programs and on professional development in pre-secondary inquiry-based science education
  • presenting sessions on contemporary views of science education to representatives from participating countries
  • presenting workshops for science teachers in South American countries
  • helping to find funds for the continuation of this important North-South project, with mutual benefit to all.

Resources

IAP is a global network of the world's science academies. IAP seeks to reform science education on a global scale by encouraging hands-on inquiry-based learning (IBSE). To this end IAP has funded several international projects, workshops, conferences and publications. Many of the publications, including Principle and Big Ideas for download below, are meant to be used by policy makers. Some examples of IAP publication links are provided below.

CRYSTAL-Alberta Outreach

CRYSTAL Alberta is one of five NSERC science and mathematics education research centres across Canada. NSERC is the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. CRYSTAL Alberta is the national centre for the CRYSTAL program. CRYSTAL is an acronym for Centre for Research in Youth Science Teaching and Learning. The NSERC CRYSTAL program is a five-year pilot program that will be evaluated to see if it will continue as an NSERC initiative. Any support and feedback that you can provide is helpful in evaluating the resources, services, centres and the program, in general. The education research program specific to CRYSTAL Alberta is that of

  • mathematics reasoning and deep understanding conveyed through text
  • mathematics reasoning and deep understanding conveyed through visuals
  • science reasoning and deep understanding conveyed through text
  • science reasoning and deep understanding conveyed through visuals

The research and development projects in CRYSTAL Alberta all fit into the four categories--math and science text and visuals. In math and science classrooms most of the communication is through text and visuals. The focus on reasoning and deep understanding puts the CRYSTAL Alberta research on the leading edge of education innovation. CRYSTAL Alberta is conducting research and development to create and test

  • curriculum resources
  • instructional strategies
  • assessment resources
  • curriculum outcomes

Most educators agree that reasoning and deep understanding are two important goals for mathematics and science education. CRYSTAL Alberta is conducting systematic research, systematic searches of the literature for past research, and systematic searches for existing resources tha promote reasoning and deep understanding. Check out the current resources by visiting the CRYSTAL Alberta section of this website in the frame to the left.

CRYSTAL-Alberta Outreach

Mathematics Reasoning Text

How the field of mathematics has developed and continues to develop is related to the different views of the nature of mathematics and can be illustrated (in part) by examining various common forms of mathematical reasoning. In other words, what thinking processes do mathematicians and people who use mathematics, like scientists, employ? The forms of mathematical reasoning discussed here are somewhat simplified and include the following:

  • reasoning by deduction
  • reasoning by induction
  • reasoning by analogy/models

An understanding of mathematical reasoning will help to answer the questions: how is mathematical knowledge created? how is it tested? how is it used?

Some classroom resources for directly teaching mathematics reasoning are available on the CRYSTAL Alberta Outreach website.

Mathematics Reasoning Visuals

Mathematics reasoning, modelling and deep understanding are promoted through CRYSTAL Alberta funding for the King's Centre for Visualization at The King's University College in Edmonton AB. A couple of the excellent examples are

  • mathematical modelling of the spread of the West Nile Virus
  • mathematical modelling of a tsunami

Check out these resources at the King's Centre for Visualization.

Science Reasoning Text

Some of the text resources available from CRYSTAL Alberta to help promote scientific reasoning are categorized under the following headings.

  • Nature of scientific research
  • Scientific attitudes
  • Scientific language
  • Scientific knowledge (forms of)
  • Empirical problem solving
  • Theoretical problem solving

The resources can be accessed through the CRYSTAL Alberta Outreach website.

Science Reasoning Visuals

Visualizing the Unseen at King's Centre for Visualization in Science

"A significant challenge in understanding science is to comprehend ("to visualize") phenomena that, by their nature, are either impossible to see or very difficult to see. One of the primary tasks of The King's Center for Visualization in Science is to do just this. To borrow from William Blake, our task is

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."

Scientific Reasoning and Modeling at KCVS

UNESCO Lessons for Iraq Teacher Education

Within the framework of the UNESCO Iraq Office project "Training of Trainers in Teacher Education for Sustained Quality Education", the lessons were prepared in an instructional design template for Iraqi science teacher education. The project aims at improving the quality of teacher education in Iraq through strengthening the capacities of colleges of science and education in four Iraqi universities. These are draft lessons that have been created--to be tested during use. The list of lessons is ongoing--more are constantly in the process of being created.

The audience for these lessons is science-teacher educators/trainers. These lessons are to be used in the context of training science teachers. The users of the lessons are the teacher trainers. A major goal of the lessons is to create a synthesis of science knowledge with pedagogical knowledge. Many of the lessons available outside of this project are one or the other—pure science lessons or pure pedagogy lessons. An attempt has been made in this project to create a synthesis of the two knowledge forms—science and pedagogy.

Fortunately, science is a subject that enables pedagogy, for example,

  • empirical science is real and concrete—enabling students to use their five senses to learn, especially in their everyday environment and in the laboratory
  • theoretical science uses models and analogies—something that teachers and students can use to assist learning by making the abstract concrete
  • science has ways of learning—evidence-based and reason-based learning complement and test each other, in a real way
  • science has ways of knowing—empirical and theoretical parallel processes that complement each other, scientifically and pedagogically
  • science is a team effort—complemented in pedagogy as collaborative learning, inside and outside the laboratory
  • science is inquiry—complemented in pedagogy by inquiry-based learning, inside and outside the laboratory
  • science is problem based—complemented in pedagogy by problem-based learning
  • science is question based—promoting student-centred learning; e.g., question-and-answer and discussion-oriented instructional strategies
  • science is research based—promoting the testing of hypotheses by students (about science) and teachers (about pedagogy)
  • science is attitude based—promoting such predispositions in the classroom as perseverance, open-mindedness, honesty, and suspended judgment

Science is about how we know and pedagogy is about how we learn. When teaching and learning science, the teachers and the learners need to come to appreciate the strong connection between science and pedagogy. For example, Jean Piaget’s classification of learners as concrete and abstract is very similar to philosophers classification of science as empirical and theoretical.

Introduction to UNESCO Iraq Lesson

Within the framework of the UNESCO Iraq Office project "Training of Trainers in Teacher Education for Sustained Quality Education", the following lessons were jointly prepared by teacher educators in Iraq and the Centre for Mathematics Science and Technology Education (CMASTE) in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Each lesson was developed according to an instructional design template for science teacher education in Iraqi colleges and universities. Part I of these lessons focuses on subject-specific lessons and instructor self-assessment. Part II of these lessons provides science educators with examples and suggestions about how to incorporate inquiry-based, student-centred, problem-based learning into their teaching and assessment practices.

Overall, this project aims at improving the quality of teacher education in Iraq through strengthening the capacities of college and university-level science education instructors. These are draft lessons that have been created--to be tested while being used in the university classroom. Create-test-use applies equally well to the progress of science and of pedagogy.

Part I: Subject Specific Lessons and Instructor Self-Assessment

Analytical Chemistry: an example for conducting a successful lesson in chemistry

Physics of Waves: illustrating how science content with pedagogy content added as appropriate

Geology through various strategies: using various teaching strategies for learning geology

Mathematics Education Brainstorming: using brainstorming as a learning methodology for mathematics

Environmental Education: environmental pollution in land, water and air, with pedagogic needs

Self-Assessment: instructor self-assessment, both retrospective baseline and a current level

Part II: Lessons on Science Education Pedagogy

Constructivism: the evidence for and the concept of prior-, pre-, alternative-conceptions

Create-test-use: a pedagogic tool for classifying kinds of reasoning and laboratory research

Curriculum Emphases: a concept used to organized the other (e.g. STSE) outcomes

Evidential Basis: strategies for bringing evidence-based reasoning to the classroom

Laboratory Processes: discussing scientific processes used in different kinds of laboratory work

Laboratory Reports: opening up ideas about what should be included (and not) in a lab report

Lesson Planning: using pedagogic research to inform lesson planning in math and science

Performance Assessment: having students perform an assessment task (e.g. a laboratory skill)

Problem-based Learning: promoting open-ended and open-entry problem solving

Scientific Attitudes: bringing to consciousness predispositions to think and act in a certain way

Scientific Knowledge: classifying scientific knowledge to help learning and researching

Scientific Research: presenting a curriculum of sub-concepts about scientific research

Thought Experiments: presenting evidence and provoking reasoning by an imagined experiment