Learning From Place: Developing a Relationship With the Land and Our Partners

Learning From Place: Developing a Relationship With the Land and Our Partners

Kevin O'Connor (Mount Royal University, Canada), Gladys Sterenberg (Mount Royal University, Canada) and Norman Vaughan (Mount Royal University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2517-3.ch011

Abstract

This chapter investigates how teacher candidates' experiences in STEAM field studies with community partners can inform work in teacher education within an integrated practicum based on curriculum of place. The overall goal of the inquiry is to better understand and articulate the particular ways in which people value place-based knowledge. Through relationships with Indigenous communities, the team of educators has a deeply held conviction that sustained deliberations on the connections between Indigenous knowledge systems and place-based thinking can provide significant opportunities for reframing education. Learning from place emphasizes a relationship with the land, something deeply respected in Indigenous communities and something absent from much of place-based education. The research explores this tension as we come to a deeper and shared understanding of co-responsibility within Treaty 7 relationships. The project seeks to close this gap by considering varying perspectives of place as it informs STEAM teacher education pedagogy.
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Introduction

We acknowledge the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina, and Stoney-Nakoda Nations on whose traditional territories we live and work. This chapter investigates how teacher candidates’ experiences in STEAM (Science, Technologies/Education, Arts and Mathematics) field studies with community partners can inform our work in teacher education. As educators who teach within an integrated STEAM practicum semester, we are interested in linking STEAM courses, Indigenous knowledge systems, and place-based education. This project seeks to foster new understandings around a curriculum of place (Chambers, 2008) among Indigenous communities, not-for-profit organizations, public schools, and our Canadian post-secondary institution.

The research described in this chapter is part of a longitudinal programmatic qualitative study that investigates the impact of transformative pedagogies (described later in the chapter) on teacher educators, mentor teachers, and teacher candidates. Central to the longitudinal research is the study of how theory and practice can be integrated by attending to various perspectives of place within institutions and schools. Here, the goal of our inquiry is to better understand and articulate the particular ways in which we value place-based knowledge within a STEAM integrated practicum semester.

Many contributions to bridging theory and practice in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education have been made through non-Indigenous perspectives of place. The field of place-based education has strong roots in environmental education (Knapp, 1996; Orr, 1994; Raffin, 1995; van Eijck, & Roth, 2009). During the past twenty years, place-based education (Emekauwa, 2004; Greunewald, 2003; Penetito, 2009; Relph, 1992; Sobel, 2004; Wattchow & Brown, 2011) has become wide-spread as an approach to teaching that is grounded in the context of community and environment (Kincheloe, Mckinley, Lim & Barton, 2006; Raffan, 1993; Theobald & Curtiss, 2000).

However, Indigenous knowledge systems embedded in relationships with nature have informed peoples’ understanding of place over many centuries (Cajete, 1999; 2000). Emerging research suggests that place-based education is limited because it does not critique colonial legacies in theoretical frameworks of place (Calderon, 2014). Indeed, many Indigenous scholars are replacing the term place with land and argue that land-based pedagogies promote the decolonization of education (Ballantyne, 2014; Wildcat, McDonald, Irlbacher-Fox, & Coulthard, 2014) by recognizing the intimate relationship that Indigenous peoples have with the land. Learning from place emphasizes a relationship with the land (Blood & Chambers, 2006), something deeply respected in Indigenous communities and something absent from much of place-based STEM education. Our project seeks to close this gap by considering varying perspectives of place as it informs STEAM teacher education pedagogy. Our research questions are: 1) What do we learn as STEAM educators through the design and implementation of field studies that link Indigenous knowledge systems and place-based education? and 2) What are the teacher candidates’ experiences of STEAM field studies framed by a curriculum of place?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Theory-Practice: The integration between the individual and society, art and science, field and classroom; connecting different aspects of the same phenomenon and not viewing these aspects in opposition to each other.

Decolonization: Involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and weeding out settler biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being. For non-Indigenous people, decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact.

Transformative Pedagogies: An activist pedagogy combining the elements of constructivist and critical pedagogy that empowers students to examine critically their beliefs, values, and knowledge with the goal of developing a reflective knowledge base, an appreciation for multiple perspectives, and a sense of critical consciousness and agency.

Indigenization: A collaborative process of naturalizing Indigenous intent, interactions, and processes and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves including Indigenous perspectives and approaches.

STEAM: Is an approach to learning that uses science, educational technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.

Reconciliation: Is about addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all.

Inquiry: Involves developing questions, making observations, doing research to find out what information is already recorded, developing methods for experiments, developing instruments for data collection, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, outlining possible explanations and creating predictions for future study.

Experiential: Process of learning through experience and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing.”

Place-Based Education: Place-based education is interdisciplinary, it promotes learning that is rooted in what is local—the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place.

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