April 2006
(Volume 9, Number 2)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

Tiwi designs by Jennifer Coombs
Munupi Arts & Crafts Association,
Pirlangimpi, Melville Island, NT






The Aboriginal Knowledge and Science Education Research Project

Gloria Snively (University of Victoria) and Lorna Williams (University of Victoria)

Evidence points to the fact that in British Columbia schools the majority of students of Aboriginal ancestry are under represented in science courses and under represented in the sciences (2002, Ministry of Education Report).  In order for students to enter post secondary or pursue science based careers, this low participation rate for the majority of Aboriginal students creates barriers and limits their career opportunities. 

The "Aboriginal Knowledge and Science Education Research Project" is a collaborative venture between the Aboriginal Education Enhancements Branch of the Ministry of Education and the University of Victoria, and was created to address issues associated with the under representation of Aboriginal peoples in the sciences.  The main purpose of the project is to determine why Aboriginal students are under-represented in high school science biology, chemistry and physics classrooms, to find ways to significantly improve their involvement and achievement in both elementary and high school science leading to post secondary, and to encourage Aboriginal people to consider science related occupations.

Background to the Study
An examination of Aboriginal performance and participation patterns in British Columbia over the last five years (2002) indicates that 36% to 42% of Aboriginal students graduate from grade 12. Of the Aboriginal students who graduated, 8% to 14% have taken biology 12; 5% to 8% took chemistry 12; and 2% took physics 12.  It is important to acknowledge that the average test scores in these three courses range from 63% to 73%, and indicates a high level of achievement for those students who do participate (statistic derived by Ministry of Education performance data, as yet unpublished).  Of all the students province wide taking science 11, 15.1%  of Aboriginal students, and 7% of non-Aboriginal students are taking Science and Technology 11.  The rest of the Aboriginal students who do take science 11 are in Forestry 11 or Earth Science 11.  None of these courses fulfill the requirement to be admitted into a post-secondary institution (Ministry Document, 2003).  In order for students to enter post secondary or pursue science based careers, this low participation rate in approved science courses for the majority of Aboriginal students creates barriers and limits their career opportunities.  Similarly, the career paths chosen by Aboriginal students as a result of their education requires further understanding as far as science education is concerned.

This situation arises from a type of science education in which Aboriginal science knowledge is rarely acknowledged and Aboriginal content is seldom if ever legitimized, or is considered a token addition.  Unless science classrooms and teaching materials provide a meaningful context for Aboriginal students (as defined by their local communities), and unless Aboriginal knowledge coexists with Western science in the science classroom, many Aboriginal students will continue to find the science curriculum inaccessible and culturally irrelevant.  At this level, the lack of participation in the science graduation courses limits their options to pursue careers where science and mathematics form a foundation.  Increasingly, land claims settlements are resulting in increased Aboriginal control over the management, development, use and conservation of lands and resources which makes the need for teaching scientific and technical literacy and skills among Aboriginal peoples a pressing issue.

According to Aboriginal scholar Gregory Cajete (1999) "Indigenous science is a broad category that includes everything from metaphysics to philosophy to various practical technologies practiced by Indigenous peoples past and present" (p. 83), and like western science, "has models which are highly contextual to tribal experience, representational and focused on higher order thinking and understanding" (p. 85).

Traditional Ecological Knowledge is a subset of indigenous science, and is considered a branch of biological and ecological science.  Examples of TEK science may be accessed through living elders and specialists of various kinds or found in the burgeoning literature of TEK ecology, biology, botany, ethnobiology, medicine, horticulture, agriculture, astronomy, geology, climatology, architecture, navigation, nautical science, engineering and mathematics (Berkes, 1993; Weatherford,1991; Snively and Corsiglia, 2000).

By documenting and sharing the ecological knowledge and wisdom of the elders and the perspective of western science with the research and education communities, the long-term hope is to develop educational materials and programs that will encourage and support responsible and accountable decisions that sustain communities and environments.

The Vision
In January, 2003 a group of invited University of Victoria faculty, graduate students, Ministry officials, non-Aboriginal resource persons, and Aboriginal leaders and elders from around the province met at Dunsmuire Lodge, Victoria to generate a vision statement and to identify possible research directions.  The following Vision Statement reflects the ideas, concerns, and vision of those in attendance.

Programs and curricula need to be developed that:

  • Teach Aboriginal children that their culture has contributed to scientific knowledge and will continue to do so;
  • Links science instruction to local Aboriginal knowledge and wisdom;
  • Recognizes and engages the expertise of local Aboriginal people and links their current observations and understandings to a vast historical and cultural data base gained from observation and experience;
  • Enables Aboriginal students to understand the importance of science in their daily lives and its relationship to themselves, their community, and the world in which they live;
  • Celebrates equity and diversity and recognizes equity and diversity as essential;
  • Instills concepts such as giving back to the earth, prayer, offerings, and stream restoration;
  • Where possible locating science concepts and practices in First Nations languages to provide a better understanding from a First Nations perspective;
  • Enables Aboriginal students to be successful in school and not lose their cultural identify.

The Research Projects
Twelve interrelated topics have been identified as a key focus for graduate students to conduct research projects.  Specifically, individual projects will attempt to: 

  1. determine the current state of participation and achievement of Aboriginal students in all science related courses at the elementary, middle and high school levels;
  2. analyze Ministry of Education policies, school textbooks and resource materials and programs to determine the prescribed content and learning outcomes, and to determine how science is taught in schools;
  3. explore the experiences of Aboriginal students in school science, their ideas and beliefs about science, and if they didn't stay in science, why?
  4. of the 5 to 13% of Aboriginal students who are successful in school science, who is successful and why? Has success in school science led to science careers for these students?
  5. describe the views and teaching practices of science teachers at the elementary and secondary levels;
  6. describe the views of Aboriginal parents and elders about how science is taught in schools, what is taught in science content, and what Aboriginal knowledge can be integrated into the science curriculum;
  7. identify, with Aboriginal communities, examples of indigenous knowledge that can be incorporated into an Aboriginal science curriculum;
  8. determine with Aboriginal communities, what an Aboriginal science curriculum might look like;
  9. examine how science is being taught in BC university science courses, examine course syllabi, interview science professors and interview Aboriginal science students;
  10. explore teaching strategies that enable science concepts to be related to First Nations concepts (traditional stories, science camps, problem solving inquiries, digital cameras to document TEK, etc);
  11. explore ways that Aboriginal science programs can be developed for urban centers;
  12. determine the career goals of Aboriginal youth? What science careers are available and could be made available for Aboriginal youth? How might Aboriginal youth be encouraged to seek science related careers in their home communities?

The project will utilize a range of qualitative methodologies, including informal interviews, participant observation, participatory action research, stories, and self reflection: approaches that are compatible with Indigenous ways of knowing.  In addition, surveys and statistical analyses will be used to describe the state of Aboriginal science teachers and students province wide.  By working with Aboriginal graduate students, rather than with experienced researchers, this project is unique in that it is designed to promote capacity building amongst Aboriginal peoples. 

The results of the study will be used to inform the Ministry of Education, superintendents, post-secondary institutions, parents and students with important information; and to guide teachers, curriculum developers, and program planners to develop culturally informed science materials for use in the classroom.

(2003).  Math and Science Foundation Studies Participation Rates.  Government document prepared for the Aboriginal Education Enhancements Branch of the Ministry of Education, British Columbia, Victoria. 
Berkes, F. (1993) Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In J.T. Inglis (Eds.), Traditional ecological knowledge: Concepts and cases (pp. 1-9).  Ottawa, Ontario: International Development Research Centre.
Cajete, G.  (1999). Igniting the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Education Model.  Kivaki Press: North Carolina.
Snively, G. & J.  Corsiglia.  (2000).  Discovering Indigenous science: Implications for science education.  Science Education, 85(6), 6-34.
Weatherford, J.  (1991).  Native Routs.  How the Indians Enriched America.  Toronto: Random House.

Ethno-ornithology Research and Study Group

This group has been established to provide a clearinghouse, information source and discussion point for people interested in the study of, research about and application of indigenous bird knowledge.

From the Third International Conference on Ethnomathematics (February 2006)

Maths 'needs to listen' to other cultures. 17/02/2006. ABC News Online

Garma Festival, 4-8 August 2006

For information about the Garma Festival, visit this website at Charles Darwin University, The key forum for 2006 is on Indigenous education and training. The Garma website is at

The Key Forum Report from Garma 2005 is available at

Ethnobiology curricula

This request came from Susanne Schwarz:

I am working with the International Society for Ethnobiology to compile curricula for ethnobiology and/or Traditional Ecological Knowledge. My goal is to create a curriculum database that will be available through the ISE website as a resource.  I hope to compile curricula for the full range from early education (Kindergarten) through to post graduate studies. While most of the information will be publicly accessible, contributors have the option to have their curricula password protected on this website.  Would you have any curriculum information that I could include in this database?  I am sure any information you provide will be a valuable resource for the study of ethnobiology and Indigenous Knowledge. Also, would you know of any other contacts that may be helpful in compiling this project?  If you have any information relating to ethnobiology or TEK curricula to include, please contact me at this email address.  If you have any questions or would like additional information, please don't hesitate to ask.  I would greatly appreciate any possible assistance.


Living knowledge

The Living Knowledge website is at

There are two discussion papers on indigenous science (particularly to do with Yolngu science) there, one by Howard Morphy and another by Pip Deverson, at

Latest edition of Connect

Connect is UNESCO's newsletter for science, technology and environmental education. In the latest issue the lead article is entitled "Scientism: A weed well fertilized in the garden of science education?" Download Connect at

Link to UNESCO's "Education, Science, Technology"

Indigenous Knowledge and Resource Management in Northern Australia

Our Indigenous Knowledge and Resource Management in Northern Australia ARC project website has had quite a bit more stuff added to it over the past couple of months, including a range of papers we have been working on.  Maybe the readers of the Indigenous Science Network Bulletin would be interested in looking at it more closely. (Submitted by Michael Christie)

A naturalistic study of science acquisition of Sundanese high school students on photosynthesis and plant respiration in the context of school and agricultural environment 

Ely Djulia, Nuryani Y. Rustaman, Sri Redjeki & Sudardja Adiwikarta 

This paper was presented at the International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, “Bridging the Theory-Practice Gap in Science and Mathematics Education: The Challenge to Change”, 6 - 8 December 2005, at SEAMEO RECSAM, Penang, Malaysia

Abstract: A naturalistic study to investigate the science acquisition on Sundanese High School students of photosynthesis and plant respiration on the context of school classroom and indigenous learning in an agricultural environment had been conducted in West Java and Banten provinces. Three kinds of tests including concept mapping, conceptual change, and concomitant concepts test were administered towards Senior High Schools science students. Observation and interview were also conducted towards some key informants at traditional community. The result of this analytic-descriptive study showed that students’ conception of photosynthesis and plant respiration exposed the various level of their understanding. There are misconception, partial, and scientific understanding which included concept-process-application understanding, physiology, anatomy, and chemical understanding. Based on the interaction between promoting traditional and school science, many students promoted school science more than traditional science (A<B = 39,5%), some of them promoted traditional science more than school science (A>B = 33,4%), and the rest promoted both of two knowledge systems in similar proportion (A = B = 27,1%). Grounded theory of this study showed dynamic continuum on three dimensions. There is dimension of science acquisition on vertical direction that get along by scientific conception dimension, both distributed on the sequence of concepts of community and school science on horizontal direction. The tendency of science acquisition on students who practice directly in farming with their parents, the increase of learning achievement got along by the tendency of traditional science, school science into the balance of the two. While the tendency of science acquisition on those who didn’t practice directly in farming anymore, the increase of learning achievement got along by the tendency of school science, traditional science into the balance of the two. The tendency of integration of the two knowledge systems play an important role on science acquisition and information processing in long term memory, achieving the balance of science literacy dimension (concept, process, context) and developing ecological wisdom into nature. 

Ely Djulia graduated with a PhD from the Indonesia University of Education and is now at the Medan State University, An article by Ely was published in the ISN Bulletin in October, 2005. The other authors are at the Indonesia University of Education,


4th International JTET Conference, University of Helsinki, 31 May - 3 June 2006

We are proud to announce the Fourth International Conference of JTET (Journal of Teacher Education and Training) and UNESCO network "Sustainable Development, Culture and Education" organised by the Department of Applied Sciences of Education of the University of Helsinki. The Conference is hosted by eight universities: Tallinn University (Estonia), Daugavpils University (Latvia), Vilnius University (Lithuania), Debrecen University (Hungary), University of Joensuu (Finland), University of Vechta (Germany), Rhodes University (South Africa), and York University (Canada).

The Department of Applied Sciences of Education is one of the largest departments of the University of Helsinki. The Department is divided into four sections: Class teacher education, Subject teacher education, Kindergarten teacher and early childhood education, and Special education. Finland belongs to the Nordic countries with strong democratic traditions. Therefore, the main theme of the Conference is Sustainable Education for a Democratic Society. The Conference provides you opportunities to tackle and discuss the issue. The Conference also offers possibilities to gather experiences of Finnish solutions in the area.

First of all, the Conference will be an international arena for ideas on academic, professional and research based teacher education, in-service education, lifelong education, self-education and other issues regarding sustainable development, culture and education. Time will be provided for everyone in attendance to exchange ideas, share research results, and introduce new research or development projects in the area.  Language of the Conference will be English.

More information on the programme of the Conference, the format of abstracts, travel services, accommodation etc. you will find at:

6th International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations
New Orleans, USA, 12-15 June 2006

The concerns of this conference - Human Rights, Diversity and Social Justice - loom larger than ever in the light of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. In addition to its usual global concern for the dynamics of diversity, the conference will include a specific focus on New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Main speakers will include:

  • Michel Wieviorka, one of France's leading sociologists. He teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), in Paris. He is also the Director of CADIS (Centre d'Analyse et d'Intervention Sociologique) and of the monthly magazine "Le Monde des Debats". Over the past decade, he has tried to respond to the re-emergence of racism in France. Co-author or editor of over 20 books, Michel Wieviorka is known as a specialist subjects ranging from racism and multiculturalism to social movements and terrorism.
  • Mario Antonio Minichiello, Head of Visual Communications programmes at Loughborough University, School of Art and Design, UK and an award winning artist and designer. He has been involved in reportage work and academic discourse concerning the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, focusing on the impact of conflict on global media networks and its psychological effects on viewers.
  • Panels of key academics and community leaders from New Orleans and the region, speaking on race and diversity in relation to the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina.

We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the conference call for papers. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for consideration before or after the conference in the fully refereed International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations. If you are unable to attend the conference in person, virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for refereeing and possible publication in the journal, and give you access to the electronic version of the journal, including all current and back volumes.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 31 March 2006. Proposals are reviewed within four weeks of submission. Full details of the conference, including an online call for papers form, are to be found at the symposium website -

Mataurangi Taketake: Traditional knowledge 2006

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga are hosting a conference to be held at Te Papa, Wellington, New Zealand. The conference is called "Traditional knowledge: Indigenous indicators of Well-being: perspectives, practices, solutions" from 15-17 June, 2006. Try the website at

The Conference theme will address the issues, practices, models and perspectives for protecting, sustaining and nurturing traditional systems of knowledge.

  • How do we know that our knowledge, ways of knowing and associated practices are in a state of well-being?
  • What practices do we use to sustain and help the next generation look after our systems of knowledge?
  • How do we know that our relationships, languages, literatures, stories, environments, healing practices, spiritualities, genealogies, bodies, children, elders, women, men, communities are flourishing?
  • What are the basic indicators that we use to give us confidence that all is well?
  • How do we measure our development and advancement?

Internationally generated indicators of well-being, like indicators of development, have a subtle but significant impact on Māori and other indigenous communities.

Australasian Science Education Research Association conference 2006

5-8 July 2006, Canberra, ACT.

Come to the Bush Capital for the 37th conference of the Australasian Science Education Research Association. The venue is the Rydges Lakeside Hotel, within an easy walk of both the city and the lake. Enjoy an early walk by Lake Burley Griffin in the brisk morning air, followed by stimulating papers on Science Education and Research.

 Registration is open and we are currently calling for papers (by 21 April 2006).

Sustainability of Indigenous Communities 2006

Murdoch University, Perth WA, 12-14 July 2006
Organised by the Murdoch University Environmental Technology Centre

2nd Desert Knowledge Symposium

The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and Desert Knowledge Australia are pleased to announce the call for papers for the second Desert Knowledge Symposium to be held in Alice Springs from 1-3 November 2006.

The aim of this conference, held in the International Year of the Desert and Desertification and Australia's Year of the Outback, is to provide a platform for leading desert scientists, businesses and community leaders to share insights that will promote thriving desert economies and desert opportunities on a global scale. Speakers from desert Australia and desert countries around the world will be participating.

We invite abstracts for papers that will be given in the context of panel discussions on the following themes:

  1. Doing Business in the Desert
  2. The Knowledge Economy and Its Place in the Desert
  3. New Approaches to Natural Resource Management in the Desert
  4. The Arts, Land and Desert Culture
  5. Building the Viability of Desert Communities
  6. Energy and Water Solutions for Desert People.

Abstracts are due by 5 May 2006 and should consist of no more than 300 words. Please note that acceptance of the abstract does not mean acceptance of the paper or proposal, which will be considered against other abstracts received. Download the brochure for more information on the symposium, the themes, and submission details.

10th International Congress of Ethnobiology (ICE): Ethnobiology, biodiversity and community development

Chiang Rai Province of Thailand on 5-9 November 2006.

A major cultural event, Loi Kratong Day, will be held in Chiang Rai on 5 November making transportation difficult. Therefore all participants should arrive in Chiang Rai no later than the morning of 4 November and ensure that all transportation and accommodation is booked well in advance.

4th National Australian Indigenous Education Conference: Getting on with the job: Indigenous engagement in education

Wollotuka - the School of Aboriginal Studies at the The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia  in partnership with the Indigenous Unit from the Department of Education and Training <> is hosting the 4th National Indigenous Education Conference  from 27 to 29 November 2006 in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. The conference will attract delegates predominantly from Australia and surrounding islands, New Zealand and Canada. Representatives are expected from Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education environments from areas such as policy, curriculum development & teaching and academics & public servants from State and Federal Government departments. The third national conference was held in Ballarat, VIC in 2004.

The conference is Indigenous centred for the empowerment of Indigenous Australians to facilitate education and interaction through Indigenous-led engagement. In addition to a small number of visionary thought-provoking keynote addresses there will be interactive workshops and knowledge sharing with national and international Indigenous researchers, educators and community leaders. A special feature of the conference will be a Cultural Afternoon including tours and a Cultural Reception at Wollotuka (in the language of the Awabakal people, Wollotuka means "eating and meeting place").

For further  details regarding registration and the call for abstracts & entertainment, please visit the conference website to express your interest in attending. 

ANZCIES 2006: Global Governance, Educational Change, and Cultural Ecology

1-3 December 2006, Australia National University, Canberra

The ANZCIES 2006 conference, hosted by The Australian National University, marks a new milestone in the development of comparative and international education. Implicit in the title of the conference theme, our society is adding global governance to the ongoing debate and discussion in comparative education. We will start the conference on the evening of 30 November 2006 with an opening reception, followed by a list of concurrent sessions on 1, 2, and 3 December 2006. Conference attendees will be given the option of staying at ANU’s University House or nearby student dormitories.

We encourage you to attend this all important conference and help build the future of comparative and international education in terms of policy, practice, and context. You will be sharing your expertise with participants from around the world, committed to the vision of and passion for education in all its various forms, and recognize and appreciate all of the political, economic, and sociocultural institutions and cultures embedded in it.


This is mostly a summary of upcoming conferences. More details may have been given above or in previous bulletins. A web-based contact is usually included.

April 2006

3-6 April 2006: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual meeting, San Francisco,

7-11 April 2006: American Educational Research Association Conference, San Francisco,

May 2006

22-25 May 2006: Eleventh Annual International Conference, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, "Shaping the Future of Science, Mathematics and Technical Education", (Dec05)

31 May - 3 June 2006: 4th International JTET Conference, University of Helsinki, (April06)

June 2006

9-10 June 2006: Symposium on Technology, Knowledge and Society, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. (Feb06)

12-15 June 2006: 6th International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, New Orleans, USA (April06)

15-17 June, 2006: "Traditional knowledge: Indigenous indicators of Well-being: perspectives, practices, solutions", at Te Papa, Wellington, New Zealand. Try the website at (April06)

16-18 June 2006: Social Capital Foundation Conference at the American University in Bulgaria, in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. For more information please go to (Feb06)

28-30 June 2006: (Re) Contesting Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Studies Conference 2006, Gold Coast Marriott Hotel, Surfers Paradise - Queensland Australia, (Dec05)

July 2006

5-8 July 2006: Australasian Science Education Research Association conference, Canberra ACT.  (August05)

9-13 July 2006: CONASTA55: Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association, Adelaide, SA (August05)

12-14 July 2006: Sustainability of Indigenous Communities 2006. Murdoch University, Perth WA, (April06)

18-21 July 2006: International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of the Aegean, Island of Rhodes, Greece, (Feb06)

30 July - 4 August 2006: XII IOSTE Symposium: Science and Technology Education in the Service of Humankind, Penang, Malaysia. (Dec05)

August 2006

4-8 August 2006: Garma Festival, Nhulunbuy, NT

September 2006

3-8 September 2006: 12th Gender And Science And Technology (GASAT12) International Conference. University of Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom. Email (Dec05)

October 2006

4-6 October 2006: Australian Association for Environmental Education conference, Bunbury, WA. Pamphlet available at

November 2006

1-3 November 2006: 2nd Desert Knowledge Symposium, organised by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and Desert Knowledge Australia, Alice Springs NT.

5-9 November 2006: 10th International Congress of Ethnobiology (ICE): "Ethnobiology, Biodiversity and Community Development", Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. (April06)

27-29 November 2006: 4th National Indigenous Education Conference - Getting on with the job: Indigenous Engagement in Education, Newcastle NSW  Australia (April06)

28-30 November 2006: APERA 2006, the Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association Conference 2006, Hong Kong. (Oct05)

December 2006

1-3 December 2006: ANZCIES 2006: Global Governance, Educational Change, and Cultural Ecology, Australia National University, Canberra.

April 2007

14-17 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual meeting, New Orleans, (  (still being advertised as here on the website)

July 2007

8-12 July: World Conference on Science and Technology Education (ICASE/CONASTA56), Perth WA. (August05)


World Indigenous People's Conference on Education (WIPCE 2008), Victoria, Australia

Last updated: 1 April 2006