Cross-Cultural Science Teaching: Praxis
Glen S. Aikenhead
College of Education
University of Saskatchewan
28 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK, S7N 0X1
A paper presented at the at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in
Science Teaching, St. Louis, March 26-28, 2001
The goal of conventional science teaching has been to transmit to students the knowledge, skills, and values of the scientific community. This content conveys a Western worldview due to the fact that science is a subculture of Western culture (Pickering, 1992). Thus, students with a much different worldview, such as many Aboriginal (Native American) students, can experience a cross-cultural event whenever they study Western science (Maddock, 1981; Cajete, 1999; Snively & Corsiglia, 2001). How can these students master and critique a Western scientific way of knowing without losing something valuable from their own cultural way of knowing?
To Aboriginal science educator Madeleine MacIvor (1995), the answer is clear: "The need for the development of scientific and technical skills among our people is pressing. ... Reasserting authority in areas of economic development and health care requires community expertise in science and technology" (p. 74). "Conventional science must be presented as a way, not the way, of contemplating the universe" (p. 88). In other words, Aboriginal students should learn Western science but without being assimilated into Western culture, that is, without losing their cultural identity as Aboriginals. To make this happen, however, the curriculum and instruction must be cross-cultural in nature (Aikenhead, 1997). In Australia and New Zealand this is called "two-way" learning (Ritchie & Butler, 1990), while in the U.S. it is often called "bi-cultural" instruction (Cajete, 1986, 1999; Kawagley, 1995).
Central to a cross-cultural approach to science teaching is the tenet that Aboriginal children are advantaged by their own cultural identity and language, not disadvantaged in some deficit sense. Aboriginal students have the potential of seeing the world from at least two very different points of view, rather than just one, as many of their Euro-Canadian counterparts do.
Based on the premise that future science teaching will need to become cross-cultural in nature (moving students from their everyday culture into the culture of Western science), and based on the need to understand teachers' views on the topic before cross-cultural science teaching could be implemented, Aikenhead and Huntley (1997) conducted a research study into science teachers' conceptions of: (1) the connection between the culture of science and the culture of Aboriginal students, (2) the possible assimilation of these students in their science classes, and (3) the degree to which teachers saw themselves as culture brokers who could smooth the cultural border crossings into school science for students. The teachers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) taught Aboriginal students across northern Saskatchewan in grades 7 to 12. The research identified barriers to student participation in science: while the science teachers tended to blame various inadequacies (a lack of this and a lack of that), Aboriginal educators clearly pointed to the vast differences between Aboriginal culture and the culture of science -- differences that make science a foreign forbidding world to most students. Several recommendations emerged from that study, two of which are relevant here:
1. Knowledge of nature learned in school science should combine both Aboriginal and Western science knowledge systems.
2. A group of teachers who are already fulfilling some of the principal roles of a culture broker should be identified, and they should form a working network with other educators who could facilitate their collaborative efforts. Together, they should develop: (a) an array of culturally responsive instruction and assessment practices; (b) a culturally sensitive science curriculum; and (c) specific lessons, units, or modules for other teachers to use.
The study also found a great diversity in cultures from community to community across the north. This means that instruction and teaching materials developed in one community are not necessarily transferable to another community. Teaching materials must fit into a meaningful cultural context of the local community, otherwise many students will find the science curriculum inaccessible.
Thus, schools need cross-cultural science units that convey the community's Aboriginal view of nature, and that convey Western science as another way of understanding nature -- a way that expresses a Western scientific worldview and a Western set of values about nature. And if teachers are going to teach these culturally sensitive science units in a meaningful way, teachers will need continuous professional support.
But what does this type of cross-cultural science teaching look like in a classroom? This became
the research question for the investigation. To explore this new territory, a research and
development (R&D) study was initiated: a two-year collaborative effort between the author and
six teachers, conducted in communities across northern Saskatchewan. The purpose of this paper
is to describe this R&D study.
There are differences between an R&D study and a typical academic research study normally
reported in the research literature. In an R&D study, data are not collected to inform a
theoretical model, or to be interpreted to convey a participant's lived experience, or to assess a
program in any summative way. In an R&D study, research is undertaken and data are collected
to be fed directly into improving the product of the study (or improving practice related to the
product). This goal resembles formative assessment. For example, R&D studies in science
education were used in the 1970's and 1980's by a physics project that produced science-
technology-society (STS) modules in the Netherlands (Eijkelhof & Lijnse, 1988). Aikenhead
(1994) employed an R&D study to produce the STS textbook Logical Reasoning in Science &
Technology. R&D studies have yielded useful curriculum materials and instructional practices in
A number of teachers were nominated by the directors of two school divisions in Northern Saskatchewan, as possible participants in the study. Each teacher was contacted by telephone by the author. Seven teachers volunteered to participate in the study. One withdrew midway through the first year. The teachers taught science or technology courses in five isolated communities, spread over a distance of about 500 km. This collaborative R&D team of six teachers (two of whom were Aboriginal) had a personal interest in developing their cross-cultural science teaching further. Their teaching experience ranged from two to 25 years, and all taught classes comprised entirely of Aboriginal students (with two minor exceptions). All teachers were highly involved in activities and projects related to their school. The teachers were particularly busy people.
On the advice of the Northern Lights School Division (a major school jurisdiction in northern Saskatchewan), the author approached Elder Henry Sanderson of the La Ronge Indian Band to ask him to be the project's guide. At a personal meeting in La Ronge with the author, Elder Sanderson accepted a gift of jams and teas, thereby agreeing to become the project's Elder. At the first collaborative meeting with the teachers in La Ronge in January 1999, he gave the team the vision to care for Mother Earth. He continued to provide guidance throughout the project at key decision points. Other Elders also kindly provided knowledge and wisdom from time to time.
There were a number of consultants and advisors who assisted the R&D team: translators who
helped us write key words and phrases in Cree and Dëne; computer experts who provided
technical support; an Aboriginal artist; and a great many competent people in the teachers'
communities who contributed by helping students and teachers learn local Aboriginal science,
and by assisting teachers in the classroom and on field trips.
Guided by Aboriginal and international educators (Battiste, 1986; Cajete, 1986; Casebolt, 1972; Ermine, 1995; Hampton, 1995; Jegede, 1995; Kawagley, 1995; MacIvor, 1995; McKinley, 1996; Nelson-Barber, Trumbull & Shaw, 1996; Ogawa, 1995), by research findings (Aikenhead, 1997; Allen & Crawley, 1998; Baker, 1996; Deyhle & Swisher, 1997; Fleer, 1997; Harris, 1978; Snively, 1990, 1995), and by the practical knowledge of teachers, the following objectives were formulated for the R&D investigation:
1. To develop a prototype process for producing culturally sensitive instructional strategies and curriculum materials that support student learning within any particular community.
2. To produce teaching strategies and materials that exemplify culturally sensitive science teaching for Aboriginal students (grades 6 to 11), and to make them available electronically through CD-ROM and website sources. This took the form of six teaching units (each with lesson plans and background materials), a teacher guide, and a document describing the team's experiences involving the local community in determining what should count as valid school science content.
3. To inspire others to continue the practice of cross-cultural science teaching.
As a consequence, the project Rekindling Traditions: Cross-Cultural Science & Technology
Units emerged. The results of the R&D study are reported in the next three sections of this
paper, organized around its three objectives.
Results: To Develop a Prototype Process
Our first objective was to develop a prototype process for producing culturally sensitive instructional strategies and curriculum materials. Our experiences in this development were documented in two publications, Teacher Guide to Rekindling Traditions and Stories from the Field (Aikenhead, 2000b). These documents, along with the individual units themselves, convey a prototype process for others to follow. The following summary describes key aspects to this prototype process, a process designed and implemented during the R&D study.
The teachers received up to eight days of release time for research, writing, and working with the local experts in their unit's topic, throughout the first six months of the project. This release time was essential to the success of the project. The R&D team also conducted six two-day meetings, usually attended by an Elder. Minutes of these meetings were posted on the project's web site. The focus of each meeting changed as time went on. We began by becoming familiar with past work in cross-cultural science education (see the Teacher Guide for details). Then we went on to identify themes for our units. Next we found and piloted appropriate resources, activities, and sensitive teaching methods to suite the units. Time was taken during the later meetings to edit the units, to polish the lesson plans, and to plan professional development workshops for other teachers. Some units developed faster than others. Those that related to specific seasons (e.g. Trapping, Wild Rice, and Snowshoes) could not be implemented on a trial basis until the season was right.
Significant progress in developing individual units was always achieved when the teachers interacted face to face away from their school setting, or when an individual teacher interacted face to face in the teacher's community with the project's facilitator. The R&D team needed uninterrupted time to share ideas, to reflect on the units, and to consider how to involve community people in the school science curriculum. The synergy from people interacting around a table with a common purpose proved to be very powerful. The face-to-face meetings led directly to initiatives being taken by each teacher. The project could not have progressed without these meetings.
Our face-to-face meetings could not have been replaced by e-mail list-servers, chat rooms, telephones, of faxes. These modes of communication do not allow for the synergetic interaction needed by such a project. In the culture of schooling, there are hourly demands on busy teachers to interact with students to obtain academic, social, personal, institutional, and parental results. These demands wrap teachers up in a whirl of responsibilities that usually leave teachers with neither the time nor the energy to interact on internet or with telephones or faxes.
Although the pilot schools in northern Saskatchewan were connected to the internet, the schools were not structured to facilitate communication through the internet. In order to ensure internet communication, schools will need to change the time demands placed on teachers, and schools will need to acquire reliable and compatible technology (a very rare commodity at the present time in the profit-dominated world of computers). As mentioned above, face-to-face meetings were a major reason for the progress of the project. Future projects should follow this traditional pathway rather than the "information highway."
Another major facet to the study's successful progress can be attributed to the time spent on the project by the facilitator/coordinator (the author). He was released from teaching responsibilities at the University full time during the fall of 1999 (when the communities were implementing the units), and part time in the spring of 2000 (when the units were edited and electronically designed for desk-top publishing on the CD-ROM). Progress would not have been smooth without a coordinator to organize meetings, to follow up on teachers' suggestions when needed, to visit teachers in their schools, to be a writer when needed, to be a researcher when needed, to be a courier when needed, to negotiate computer software problems as they arose, and to keep everyone focused on the project's goals as defined by our Elders.
Key community people were essential to the development of lessons sensitive to the students'
unique community. At first it was a challenge for each teacher to involve people from the
community. The challenges were very different in different communities. These challenges, and
our advice on how to succeed, are found in Stories from the Field (Aikenhead, 2000b). Knowing
the politics of the community was always the first step toward success.
Results: To Produce Some Teaching Strategies and Materials
In Alaska, Native American students' standardized science test scores uniformly improved over
four years to meet with national averages, in classrooms where there was a strong cultural fit
among the curriculum, the instruction, and the context in which students learned the science
(Barnhardt, Kawagley & Hill, 2000). Our Rekindling Traditions project aimed to accomplish this
cultural fit. The project's teaching strategies are described first, followed by an overview of the
The first strategy that made a world of difference was teaching out of doors. Students often behaved very positively when they were immersed in nature, away from the school building, even for one lesson. It was as if they were sensing their natural place in the world. This observation coincides with one of Hampton's (1995) twelve standards of education for First Nations students, a sense of place: "Indian education recognizes the importance of an Indian sense of place, land, and territory" (p. 40). Kawagley and Barnhardt (1999) also describe the importance of place to the Alaskan Yupiaq First Nations and how science educators can be sensitive to that sense of place when planning instruction. The power of Aboriginal science rests with its validity for a particular place (Snively & Corsiglia, 2001).
Another culturally sensitive instructional strategy discovered by the team was to involve students in gaining local Aboriginal knowledge related to the unit. By becoming involved, students learned that their community was rich in knowledge, as rich as the internet and print materials they worked with at school. To gain access to local knowledge, students were taught the proper protocol for approaching people who possess the knowledge. For this purpose, students learned how to conduct interviews. Most of the Rekindling Traditions units contain a lesson dedicated to gaining local knowledge appropriately. Interview questions were composed by the class and then used by groups of students as they interviewed people in the community. The local knowledge gained by students was shared and synthesized in class. In short, Elders and other knowledgeable people in the community taught local content to students, who in turn recorded the knowledge in a way appropriate to the wishes of the person who gave them the knowledge in the first place (some stories are not to be repeated, while others may only be repeated orally). When feasible, students recorded events with recyclable cameras, following procedures suggested by Meadows, Settlage and Allen (1999). Some of these photos were placed in the units, augmenting the students' pride in their work. After having helped students synthesize the local Aboriginal knowledge, teachers verified the validity of this knowledge by talking with people in the community. This procedure established a personal contact between the teachers and people in the community. Some teachers invited Elders or other local experts into the classroom. Students and teachers usually learned the Aboriginal science content together. In some cases, the Elders or experts helped the teacher conduct a field trip with the students, for instance, a trip to a wild rice stand or to a trap line. Showing respect for local knowledge was foundational to each unit. It was not a token add-on.
These instructional methods demonstrate for students the proper protocol for gaining access to their community's knowledge and wisdom, and these methods teach students to value and respect their own Aboriginal heritage. This tends to develop stronger cultural identity and self-esteem in Aboriginal students (Cajete, 1999; McKinley et al., 1992; Ritchie & Butler, 1990).
The Aboriginal knowledge found in each of the Rekindling Traditions units creates a context for instruction that most Aboriginal students relate to. It is also a context into which Western science instruction can logically fit. In other words, Western science content is taught in the context of the local community's Aboriginal science, a context that creates an Aboriginal framework for the unit. Thus, a Rekindling Traditions unit brings Western science into the student's world rather than insisting that students construct a worldview of a Western scientist. This approach could be called "non-assimilative teaching" and is essential to culturally sensitive instructional strategies.
When students were introduced to the science content in a unit (from the provincial curriculum), it was done with sensitivity to the authentic knowledge that had been shared by the community. Consequently, students were introduced to Western science without feeling the need to discredit the Aboriginal knowledge they had learned. Teachers in the Rekindling Traditions project noticed that students became better prepared for, and sometimes more interested in, the next year's science course. This interest followed from the fact that students found the Western science content more meaningful, rather than approaching it as content to be memorized.
While we tried to avoid teaching science in a way that made students feel they were being assimilated into Western science, students were expected to see the world through the eyes of a Western scientist just as we would expect students to understand another person's point of view on an issue. Understanding Western science did not necessary mean believing in its content and technique, however. This approach to teaching has been called "anthropological" instruction (Aikenhead, 1997) because it puts students in a position not unlike an anthropologist learning the content of another culture.
Integration is another culturally sensitive instructional strategy that proved successful. The integration of Aboriginal science and Western science in the Rekindling Traditions units had a noticeable motivational effect on most students in our study. They tended to become more involved in science classes, even staying after school to complete projects when needed. Voluntarily staying after school was normally almost unheard of in the pilot schools of northern Saskatchewan.
A common pattern of integration found in the Rekindling Traditions units is the Aboriginal framework established at the beginning of each unit. This introductory Aboriginal content takes the form of practical action relevant to a community, for example, going on a snowshoe hike, finding indigenous plants that heal, listening to an Elder, interviewing people in the community, or assisting in a local wild rice harvest.
Central to cross-cultural strategies of teaching science is making students aware of different cultural ways to describe and explain nature. Not only is content different in each culture, but the values attached to that content differ. Identifying values is another aspect of integration common to all our units, in keeping with an Aboriginal way of teaching (Cajete, 1999). Both scientific and Aboriginal values are made explicit in Rekindling Traditions lessons. Each lesson plan specifies either a scientific value (e.g. power and domination over nature) or an Aboriginal value (e.g. harmony with nature) to be conveyed by the lesson. In some cases where both cultures are compared within one lesson, both types of values are identified.
Values are particularly salient in Aboriginal cultures. The introduction to any Rekindling Traditions unit clarifies key values that Elders expect students to learn. This practice of making values explicit is then extended to the clarification of values that underlie Western science when scientific content is studied in a unit. This happens to be a requirement of the Saskatchewan science curriculum, defined by one of its seven dimensions of scientific literacy -- "values that underlie science." Key scientific values sometimes became the topic of a classroom discussion. During these discussions, scientific values were expressed and then critiqued. As the value structure of Western science becomes more apparent to Aboriginal students (e.g. the mathematical idealization of the physical world), students are freer to appropriate Western knowledge without embracing Western ways of valuing nature. This appropriation has been called "autonomous acculturation" (Aikenhead, 1997). It provides an alternative method of instruction to the common approach of trying to assimilate or enculturate students into Western science.
Having established an Aboriginal framework and having identified key values as contexts for integration, the next mode of integration in a unit is an explicit border crossing event into Western science, consciously switching:
1. values (e.g. from harmony with nature, to power and domination over nature)
2. language (e.g. from mahihkan to Canis lupis),
3. conceptualizations (e.g. from "Who are these animals?" to "How are they classified?"),
4. assumptions about nature (e.g. from the observer being personally related to what is observed, to the observer being objectively removed), and
5. ways of knowing (e.g. from holism to reductionism).
An effective culture-brokering teacher clearly identifies the border to be crossed, guides students back and forth across that border, and helps students negotiate cultural conflicts that might arise (Aikenhead, 1997; Jegede & Aikenhead, 1999). Each unit differs in terms of where border crossing first occurs.
Another feature of integration often emerges when a teacher compares Aboriginal science with Western science. Sometimes Western science can powerfully clarify one small aspect of Aboriginal science. For instance in the units Snowshoes, Trapping, and Wild Rice, the technologies associated with these topics are originally studied from the historical and cultural perspectives of the local community. Then the class takes a closer, in-depth, Western scientific look at, for example, the pressure exerted by snowshoes on snow and by traps on animals, or the habitat of wild rice. By understanding the Western scientific stories about force, pressure, energy, and habitat, students learn to predict more accurately the effects of variations in the technology associated with snowshoeing, trapping, or producing wild rice. While the Western science concepts may not improve students' know-how for snowshoeing, trapping, or growing wild rice, the concepts clarify one small aspect of the overall topic. Western science does not replace Aboriginal science, it enriches an aspect of it.
As various topics in Western science are studied within our units, additional Aboriginal content is introduced from time to time. This is easy to do because the unit already has a framework for that content. Aboriginal content frames the unit in a way that nurtures the enculturation of Aboriginal students into their community's culture (Aikenhead, 2000c, Casebolt, 1972). This approach differs dramatically from the attempts to enculturate students into Western science, the goal of the so-called reform movements in, for example, the U.S. (NRC, 1996), the U.K. (Millar & Osborne, 1998), and Ontario, Canada (McNay, 2000).
The conversations among people engaged in Aboriginal science are very different from the conversations of Western scientists. Both types of conversations are taught, on a cross-cultural basis, in a Rekindling Traditions unit.
As students bring their community's Aboriginal knowledge, language, and values into the
classroom, new relationships between a teacher and a student tend to replace the conventional
hierarchy characterized by teachers transmitting what they know to students. This new
relationship tends to enhance the cultural sensitivity of any instructional strategy used in a
classroom. By teaching a Rekindling Traditions unit, teachers learn from students who have
recently learned valid Aboriginal science from people in their community. By learning from
students and community people, teachers demonstrate how an educated adult learns new
knowledge. Teachers, of course, share their own expert knowledge with students. Teachers are
facilitators, cultural tour guides, and learners; in short, culture brokers (Aikenhead, 1997; Jegede
& Aikenhead, 1999).
The main teaching materials for Rekindling Traditions are the six units (Aikenhead, 2000b), listed here with their English title, their authentic title, and their teacher developer:
1. Nature's Hidden Gifts Iyiniw Maskikiy in Cree Morris Brizinski
2. Snowshoes Asâmak in Michif or Cree David Gold
3. Survival in Our Land Kipimâcihowininaw ôta Kitaskînahk in Cree Earl Stobbe
4. The Night Sky Tth´ën in Dëne Shaun Nagy
5. Trapping ts´usi Thëlai in Dëne Keith Lemaigre
6. Wild Rice Mânomin in Algonkin or Cree Gloria Belcourt
Because of the coloured photographs throughout each unit and because several units have substantial teacher resources placed in their appendices, the computer files for these units are very large, between 5,000 and 12,000 megabytes. The units are available in two formats: (1) Microsoft Word 97 (software compatible with all schools across northern Saskatchewan), and PDF, a format which reduces the size of the files considerably but does not allow a teacher to edit the files. Only the units' PDF files are on the project's web site (http://capes.usask.ca/ccstu). Both the PDF and Microsoft Word 97 files are on the CD-ROM (Aikenhead, 2000b).
Our units are most valuable when teachers can easily copy them and then modify them to suit the needs of the local community. For this reason, a copyright was composed that allows for this, while at the same time, not allowing anyone (including ourselves) to make a profit on the units.
Another teaching material developed was the Teacher Guide to Rekindling Traditions, Table 1 (Aikenhead, 2000b). It can serve as professional support for cross-cultural science teaching and as a guide to the six units. The Teacher Guide presents background information and ideas that guided our own work. The ideas came from several sources: Aboriginal educators from around the world, Aboriginal educators and Elders in Saskatchewan, and from our own experiences and perspectives. The Teacher Guide discusses the integration of Aboriginal science and Western science, in much greater depth than this paper, by drawing upon the six units in detail to illustrate this integration. The table of contents clearly indicates the topic for each section. For instance, the section "Treating Aboriginal Knowledge with Respect" lists nine principles that guided us during the R&D study.
Table 1 fits here.
As described earlier, in Stories from the Field (Aikenhead, 2000b) we convey our experiences
and advice related to contacting community people to learn their knowledge, involving them
with the school, and gaining support from the community at large. This document takes some of
the mystery away from becoming involved with Elders and other people in the context of
Canadian Aboriginal communities. It should make Canadian teachers feel more comfortable
crossing the cultural border between their personal cultural identities and the culture of Elders
and others in the community. This border crossing is an essential teaching strategy in Rekindling
Results: To Inspire Others
Our third objective, to inspire others to continue the practice of cross-cultural science teaching, involved our work disseminating the project at teacher meetings. It is premature to describe outcomes to the Rekindling Traditions project at this time. Although this topic is beyond the scope of the paper, a few pieces of information may be of interest to the reader. Pre-service science teachers at the University of Saskatchewan have begun to benefit from Rekindling Traditions in their science methods courses because the project concretely illustrates how a teacher can integrate Aboriginal science with Western science. At in-service teacher professional workshops, initial reaction has been positive. Consistently we heard, "This is what I've been looking for. There isn't any material like it."
A different type of outcome has given us more confidence in the cross-cultural teaching strategy called "border crossing." The strategy responds to students' difficulties when they try to learn Western science but are confronted by a foreign culture (Costa, 1995). For many students, there is a cultural border to cross between a student's everyday world and the world of Western science. Evidence from cultural anthropologists Phelan, Davidson and Cao (1991) has shown that a reasonably smooth border crossing is essential before students can access Western science in a meaningful way. As described earlier, border crossing is a central strategy for cross-cultural science instruction (Aikenhead, 1997). This strategy was adopted by Cajete (1999) in his book Igniting the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Education Model. While this endorsement from an Aboriginal leader is most encouraging, experience and future research will tell how effective this strategy is for various teachers and students.
This line of research will be fruitful for understanding how students learn in ways meaningful to
them, and for designing teaching materials and strategies for the future.
Worldwide, there is an emerging interest in addressing the under-representation of Aboriginal peoples in careers related to science and technology. One response is to design practical models for curriculum development (Cajete, 1999; McKinley, 1998). Another response is to develop instructional strategies and teaching packages that integrate Aboriginal science with Western science (Alaska Native Knowledge Network, 2001; Allen & Crawley, 1998; Linkson, 1998; Michie, Anlezark & Uibo, 1998; Read, 1998; Sainte-Marie, 2000). The Rekindling Traditions project goes one step further with its unique feature of encouraging science teachers to collaborate with local experts to electronically modify a teaching unit to meet the unique needs of an individual community.
An important feature which Rekindling Traditions shares with these other projects is the community's involvement in helping decide what is worth learning in school science. An Aboriginal way of knowing, defined by the community itself, formed the foundation for each Rekindling Traditions unit. Elders and other knowledgeable people in the community taught local content to students and their teacher, who in turn recorded this knowledge appropriately. The process showed students the proper protocol for gaining access to their community's knowledge and wisdom, and it taught them to value and respect their Aboriginal heritage. The process also meant that teachers learned Aboriginal knowledge, thereby modelling for their students life-long learning.
We expect that the Teacher Guide and Stories from the Field will provide professional support for teachers as they work with any one of our units or produce a unit of their own. Our units are written by teachers to give other teachers background information, resource materials, and practical assistance lesson by lesson.
It is anticipated that teachers will print out a Rekindling Traditions unit from our CD-ROM or web site (Aikenhead, 2000b) and take it to some people in their community who know the topic well. The teacher will then ask, "How could we modify this unit so it fits our community?" These local advisory people become a major resource for modifying the unit (or developing a new one) to make it suit the unique culture of the community. The local advisory people will also interact with students in the school or on a field trip, and thus will become central to students' cultural border crossing into Western science. This is a unique feature of the Rekindling Traditions units.
A community's Aboriginal knowledge enjoys a respected place in our units. Some students in the
R&D study discovered that they already knew this Aboriginal knowledge because it had been
taught to them at home, but it had not been highly valued as legitimate knowledge for school.
Other students in our study learned this Aboriginal knowledge for the first time in their science
class. Either way, Aboriginal knowledge was given "voice" in the classroom, in the sense
described by O'Loughlin (1992): involving both the speaker and the listener in mutual respect.
Each of our units validated "the ways of knowing students bring to school by grounding the
curriculum in their voices and lives" (O'Loughlin, 1992, p. 814). By giving Aboriginal
knowledge a voice in science classrooms, teachers learn from students and from people in the
community. Teachers model for their students successful border crossing between their own
life-world and the culture of the community. In this context, students' Aboriginal identity gains a
legitimate place in the science classroom (Kawagley & Barnhardt, 1999; McKinley et al. 1992).
The discourse of colonization tends to disappear (Battiste, 2000). The discourse of power no
longer resides solely with the teacher (Aikenhead, 2000a; Rodriguez, 1998, 1999). Social power
is more evenly shared with students. This sharing leads students to learn how to master and
critique a Western scientific way of knowing without losing something valuable from their own
cultural way of knowing.
I am indebted to the six teachers, Gloria Belcourt, Morris Brizinski, David Gold, Keith
Lemaigre, Shaun Nagy, and Earl Stobbe, whose creativity and commitment to teaching were
stellar. The Rekindling Traditions project was made possible through the support and funding
from the Cameco Access Program for Engineering and Science (CAPES), the Stirling McDowell
Foundation (Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation), Northern Lights School Division,
Île-à-la-Crosse School Division, Saskatchewan Education (Northern Division), and the Colleges
of Education and Engineering, University of Saskatchewan.
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Table 1. Table of Contents for Teacher Guide to Rekindling Traditions