Rekindling Traditions
Cross-Cultural Science & Technology Units (CCSTU)
For Northern Saskatchewan Schools


Artist: Tammy Alexander

Background

Aboriginal student participation in science and engineering is very low in Saskatchewan. Among the many reasons proposed to explain this fact, Aboriginal educators emphatically point to the vast cultural difference between Aboriginal worldviews of many students and the Western science worldview expressed in science courses. Without instruction meaningfully set in the context of the local community, many students (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) find the science curriculum culturally foreign and inaccessible. Culturally sensitive approaches to teaching will treat science instruction as a cross-cultural event. There is a great diversity in cultures from community to community across the north. Thus, culturally sensitive instruction will vary from community to community.

The project focuses mainly on integrating Aboriginal science and technology with the provincial science curriculum (seven dimensions of scientific literacy). As the project expands in the future, science will be integrated with other subjects, much more than it will be in this preliminary project.

Objectives

  1. to establish a collaborative R&D team of northern science teachers and university science educators, along with community resource people.

  2. to develop a prototype process for producing culturally sensitive instructional and assessment strategies, as well as culturally responsive curriculum materials, that support student learning within any particular community.

  3. to produce some teaching strategies and materials (Cross-Cultural Science and Technology Units, CCSTU) that exemplify culturally sensitive science teaching for Aboriginal students (grades 6 to 11). These will be made available to communities electronically through CDs and web site sources.

  4. to inspire and help others to continue the project for their own communities.

Our work is guided by Elders (principally Henry Sanderson, La Ronge) to ensure that appropriate protocols are followed and that Aboriginal culture is respected and properly protected.

This preliminary project only begins to explore cross-culture science instruction. Our research and development (R&D) team is comprised of six teachers from Provincial schools, backed by a resource infrastructure to help us with immediate and unpredictable needs. Once our team has confidence in our cross-cultural teaching materials and the processes for producing those materials, then the time will be appropriate to share what we have (summer of 2000). One way to expand upon this project in the future would be to seek further funding to support the participation of Band schools. But first, the project must have something worthwhile to offer other schools.


Overview of the Project
( 2 year duration)

During a series of working meetings, the R&D team produced ideas which individual teachers took back to their schools and worked on with the help of Local Advisory People ó Elders and other key people in the community. During additional meetings, the R&D team developed the materials further. Between these meetings, the team facilitator (Glen Aikenhead, University of Saskatchewan) was in contact with the teachers in their communities. Six teaching units are being produced and piloted:

  1. As‚mak (Michif, Cree Y dialect) Snowshoes
    David Gold
    Rossignol School, őle-ŗ-la-Crosse
    Grades 7-9, structure & design, force, pressure

  2. Iyiniw Maskikiy (Cree Y dialect) Nature's Hidden Gifts
    Morris Brizinski
    Valley View School, Beauval
    Grades 6-11, plants

  3. Tth'Žn (DŽne S dialect) The Night Sky
    Shaun Nagy
    La Loche Community School, La Loche
    Grades 8-11, astronomy

  4. Kipim‚cihowininaw Űta KitaskÓnahk (Cree Y dialect) Survival in Our Land
    Earl Stobbe
    Timber Bay School, Timber Bay
    Grades 6-10, structure & design, plus science topics according to teachable moments

  5. M‚nomin (Algonkin/Cree) Wild Rice
    Gloria Belcourt
    Minahik Waskahigan School, Pinehouse
    Grades 8-11, habitat, ecosystems, plants, water quality, sustainable development, structure & design, nutrition

  6. Itts'usi ThŽlai (DŽne S dialect) Trapping
    Keith Lemaigre
    La Loche Community School, La Loche
    Grades 9-11, energy, pressure

These communities are culturally different. Therefore when a unit is introduced into a different community, Local Advisory People need to help the teacher modify the unit so it is responsive to the local culture and environment. Because the piloting process is a principal outcome to our CCSTU project, special attention is given to this process. Case studies of the process will be written so that others can read our stories and be guided by what we did.

At the end of the piloting process, the packages of teaching units will be polished further and then made available to any school. The R&D team will conduct workshops for other teachers.

Throughout this two-year CCSTU project, time is taken to ensure proper protocol, a respect for Aboriginal knowledge, and a high quality teaching unit.


Products

The CCSTU project has produced:

  1. strategies for teaching and assessing students (illustrated in the materials produced)
  2. the 6 exemplary curriculum units
  3. a prototype process for adapting any curriculum material to suit the local culture
  4. " Teacher Guide" for CCSTU
  5. "Stories from the field", a guide to involving community people.
  6. teacher in-service sessions
  7. a technical report

    The 6 teaching units, the Teacher Guide, and Stories from the field are available on this website, or on CD for $10 from: Northern Lights School Division, Teacher Resource Department, Bag Service 6500, La Ronge, SK, S0J 1L0. Phone 306-425-3303).


Partnerships & Funding

A joint partnership was established among Northern Lights School Division, Île-à-la-Crosse School Division, Saskatchewan Education (Northern Division), and the College of Education (University of Saskatchewan). The CCSTU project was funded by the Cameco Access Program for Engineering and Science (CAPES), the Stirling McDowell Foundation, and by the participating partners.


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