Teaching (and Learning) Science Through Two-Eyes

This we know. The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.  ~Sealth (Chief Seattle)

Anti-Science Fair?

Well…the winter term is upon us and with that comes the rush to organize…science fairs.

Our learners will not be participating in the annual science deep-dive (at least not as school-sponsored requirement). And, yes, a small handful of students may participate in our regional science fair with varying degrees of parental support. We, as a middle school program, however, are taking a left turn.

Truth be told…I’m really happy about this. And truth be told…so are our students.

I should back track a bit. I love science fairs. I love their depth and the insights learned by students. The language science including the scientific method to solve problems and ask more questions. Even the idea that science fairs might really be just another representation of our class system as a whole and its inequity, I find intriguing. I love the idea that some have called for the re-imagining of the science fair as a whole. A large piece of understanding what we believe science is, what is represents, how it is defined, and by whom might be the true beauty behind learning. What better way to examine and explore a human endeavour (taken for granted perhaps) than to challenge it? Compare it. Contrast it.

Indigenous knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge, is the foundation of the scientific knowledge held by indigenous peoples around the world. And it is not just something from the past. Indigenous knowledge is also more than a collection of useful facts and skills. It is part of a broader view of the world where everything is related, everything is connected. Most First Peoples consider that everything in the universe, not just living plants and animals, is interconnected.

Acknowledgement and acceptance of indigenous knowledge as a contrast to our colonized beliefs about science is necessary. This perspective breathes the value of interconnectedness into our consciousness. As teachers, we desire to weave indigenous and mainstream (western) knowledge into our science learning and teaching this term. And it may appear as though we are cowing to government mandated ‘indigenizing’ of the curriculum, we feel that there is even a higher importance at work here. It is our responsibility to weave indigenous ways of knowing and learning as more and more scientists begin to embrace indigenous knowledge in their research. I am very curious about how looking at the world of western science through multiple perspectives could lead to connection, action, and hopefully, change.

Two-Eyed Seeing: A Primer

Enter my stumbling up concept of two-eyed seeing. Two-eyed seeing is not a new perspective, but it is quickly catching favour in K-12 science classrooms in British Columbia. The work of professor emeritus at Cape Breton University, Dr. Cheryl Bartlett, along with Mi’ kmaq elders, Murdea and Albert Marshall has paved the way for teaching and learning science through a multiple perspectives lens: two-eyed seeing.

Bartlett and the Marshalls have been advocating for the importance of bringing together indigenous knowledge and mainstream (western) knowledge in learning about our physical world for nearly two decades. Along with education researcher Annamarie Hatcher, Bartlett and the Marshalls have also demonstrated the need for (and challenges of) co-learning and co-teaching two-eyed seeing in the classroom.

The research of Anishinaabe researcher, Dr. Cindy Peltier, furthers the concept of two-eyed seeing using a combination of indigenous inquiry and participatory action research methodology. And finally, indigenous youth advocate Rebecca Thomas’ recent TEDx Talk has added more fuel to lighting my fire.

You must remember, all stories start somewhere.  ~Drew Hayden Taylor

Embracing a Lack of Clarity

Honestly? The process has been a massive learning curve for me. And my brain is a little overwhelmed, and I have absorbed, if only, a tiny slice of this pedagogy of learning and knowing. I feel challenged each day to show up curious and open alongside my students. Clarity and the way forward is not also evident, but living in that space and sharing that experience with my colleague and our students only continues to deepen our collective learning. It also takes courage.

And…I continually find myself with far more questions than possible answers.

As I continue to explore two-eyed seeing and its ability to deepen understanding through interconnectedness, what does it actually mean for its application in my teaching of atomic physics (our next area of study)?

How do I want my students to walk away from this deep-dive exploration and embrace two-eyed seeing in other realms of their learning?

Why is it so imperative that we recognize and acknowledge that there are other ways of learning and viewing our world? How does this reshape and refocus future spring science fairs?

Has two-eyed seeing rendering the spring science fair obsolete?

What does a balances learning experience between indigenous knowledge and western science? Does such even exist?

Where are the other blind-spots in my own teaching and learning that two eyed-seeing is lacking? Where might it help to gain clarity, truth, and connection? 

Oh heck, nothing ventured…


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