NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ987712
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Nov
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-2190-6483
Building Cultural Bridges with Aboriginal Learners and Their "Classmates" for Transformative Environmental Education
Hatcher, Annamarie
Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, v2 n4 p346-356 Nov 2012
The educational gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians is the most significant social policy challenge facing Canada (Richards 2008). This gap is particularly evident in the science fields. Educational institutions are still regarded as mechanisms of colonization by many Aboriginal people. Their "foreign" Eurocentric (or Western) culture reinforces the systematic barrier to success of Aboriginal students in the current educational system. It is time to develop a new kind of educational process, an "ecology of Indigenous education" (Cajete, "Futures" 42:1126-1132, 2009), to allow Aboriginal peoples to participate fully in academic science and to share their deep understandings about sustainable living. Significant advances in environmental education for all learners will follow if we can embrace the relationship with Mother Earth that allowed Aboriginal peoples to live in harmony with nature for so long before colonization. "The exploration of traditional American Indian education and its projection into a contemporary context is much more than just an academic exercise. It illuminates the true nature of the ecological connection of human learning and helps to liberate the experience of being human and being related at all its levels" (Cajete, "Futures" 42:1126-1132, 2009). In Indigenous cultures, the development of respectful relationships among all participants must precede any effective learning. The development of this respect among all learners results from the successful incorporation of Indigenous culture into the classroom. Equal representation of knowledge from two cultural contexts is described by Mi'kmaw Elder Albert Marshall as "Two-Eyed Seeing" (Bartlett et al. in press) and (Hatcher et al. "Can J Sci Math Tech Educ" 9(3):141-153, 2009a). Two-Eyed Seeing is a mechanism to cross cultural borders, and has been very effective in the science classroom at many levels, as I will describe in this paper. With this guiding principle, Indigenous culture takes a place beside Western, not as an add-on to be brought out for multicultural "festivals". The devastating impact of humans on Mother Earth can be seen as a result of the anthropocentric hierarchy which is evident in many Western Sciences. Mother Earth is calling for bridge-building between Western and Indigenous worldviews. This is a challenge for teachers because of the nature of Indigenous scientific knowledge. Eurocentric, or Western scientific knowledge is passed on as a package, using books, videos and multitudes of supports and props. Aboriginal, or Indigenous knowledge can be described as "ways of knowing" and is acquired through a creative, participatory involvement with Mother Earth. There is an inherent trust in the learner and an intimate relationship between the learner and the "knowledge", with an experienced guide to help. In this paper I will describe the basic premises behind a transition of the University science classroom to accommodate learning from two worldviews. This transition involves a move from inside to outside, both physically, spiritually and intellectually. It also involves an incorporation of ceremony, preparing the learner to listen and observe. Most importantly, a close engagement with the community and the cycles of Mother Earth must occur, reinforcing and expanding the engagement of the learner and the "knowledge".
Springer. 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013. Tel: 800-777-4643; Tel: 212-460-1500; Fax: 212-348-4505; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada