Making Tracks: Environmental Leadership Through Knowledge Integration
The Trent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science (TRACKS) Program works annually with more than 7,000 indigenous youth, primarily ages 8-13, and adults from local First Nations communities on providing skills, knowledge, and activities about environmental science by integrating them with traditional and contemporary indigenous knowledge and culture.
TRACKS innovates E-STEM learning through a unique organizational structure, program delivery, curriculum design, and relationship building model, striving to foster cultural pride among Indigenous youth, while engaging them in E-STEM, and helping them to recognize themselves as scientists in both Western and traditional settings. This model is designed embodying the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing, a Mi'kmaw concept that speaks to the depth and richness of learning that encompasses more than one perspective.
"The panel appreciated how the TRACKs program is innovative in how it integrates Indigenous knowledge traditions with western STEM traditions and how we acquire knowledge through the scientific process. TRACKS makes both traditions relevant to the learners it serves. This project is a replicable process for incorporating Indigenous education in ways that can be used by other First Nations or Native American peoples who are seeking strategies for using Environment as a path to increasing STEM literacy. This model is exemplary because it demonstrates that you can take emotional, cultural, and spiritual knowledge about the environment and tie it to relevant ways of thinking about STEM. It demonstrates that the priorities and values that are central to any culture can be used to engage communities in thinking about the environment around them. Any cultural group can create experiences that make a connection between their worldviews and how we are learning about the world around us in a passionate, empowering, and important way. We saw a parallel between TRACKS and Cafeteria Culture in how they demonstrated the value of allowing learners the freedom to reason about their environment and their place in the environment as a path to understanding. TRACKS does not make STEM a separate path to knowledge, but rather an inclusive practice that recognizes all traditions. What distinguishes this project from others is that this solution was emergent in the community, it evolved directly from the locale, and has the potential to impact others. We have seen so many cases where STEM might be seen as a western European philosophy that is imposed on a community. In this case, it’s the opposite. The program found parallel STEM patterns and pedagogies within its own cultural values to prioritize what can be known about our surroundings. We are inspired by how this exemplary model emerged out of the community and is true to the community’s concerns. The panel commended this project because it demonstrated how the contribution of a unique worldview to STEM can generate different kinds of science questions. We note that using different worldviews about the environment can set challenges for STEM knowledge that strengthen the outcomes of this field. The more EE is challenged to think in new ways about STEM, the more we’ll have new solutions."