Indigenous Science Network Bulletin
December 2005
(Volume 8, Number 6)
ISSN  1449-2091

Editor: Michael Michie

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






Is Aboriginal knowledge science?

"Yes it is, say two University of Victoria (Canada) researchers who are helping to reshape the science curriculum in British Columbia schools. Lorna Williams and Gloria Snively are on a mission—slowly but surely, the two University of Victoria researchers are changing how science is taught in B.C. schools."

Read this article by Jessica Gillies in "UVic knowlEDGE" from the Victoria Times Colonist, at

Also, Dr. Lorna Williams has recently been granted a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Studies, and will oversee curriculum and program changes to bring indigenous knowledge into all aspects of teacher training and revitalize indigenous languages. Williams is a professor in UVic’s faculty of education and the department of linguistics (

Conference report: Southeast Asian and Japanese cultural influences on the understanding of scientific concepts

I attended this conference which was held in Penang, Malaysia, early in October. The workshop was a Japan Foundation (JF) funded Intellectual Exchange Project (IEP) workshop run as a collaborative effort between Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and SEAMEO-RECSAM (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Education in Science and Mathematics). Dr Loo Seng Piew from USM is the project director with Dr Chona Sarmiento from RECSAM, and Professor Ken Kawasaki was the workshop consultant.

The aim of the project was to explore cultural relativism in science education in Southeast Asia, in particular the problem of language-culture incommensurability in science. The specific objectives of the IEP workshop were:

  • To analyze cultural incommensurability between scientific terms in the English language and indigenous Southeast Asian languages.

  • To recommend ways of overcoming cultural incommensurability between scientific terms in the English language and indigenous Southeast Asian languages to enhance the teaching of science in Southeast Asia.

  • To disseminate information on overcoming cultural incommensurability between scientific terms in the English language and indigenous Southeast Asian languages among science teachers and science teacher educators in Southeast Asia.

Ken Kawasaki delivered keynote addresses on his perceptions of language-culture incommensurability (LCI) in the Japanese language, and Dr Loo also presented a paper. On the second day delegates went into workshops to discuss LCI in different Southeast Asian languages, and the workshops were followed by group presentations. There were delegates from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and myself from Australia. It was evident that a number of different approaches were being made to problems of LCI throughout Southeast Asia. I was asked to give a presentation on LCI in non-Asian Indigenous groups, focusing mainly on Australia and New Zealand.

It is hoped that the conference proceedings will be published by the end of the year and they will be disseminated from then. I will make sure details are included in future bulletins. It is also envisaged that the core group of speakers gathered for this project will be invited to form a regional group, tentatively called the Southeast Asian Culture and Science Group (SACAS). The immediate task of the group will be to disseminate the achievements of the workshop by publishing a book based on the workshop discussions and individual papers in refereed academic journals in the region. SACAS will also establish a website which will help to continue efforts to share knowledge on how to overcome the problem of cultural relativism in science learning in non-English speaking backgrounds. A listserve email list of SACAS is in the process of being set up. For more information about SACAS, contact Dr Loo Seng Piew.

Michael Michie


Science Education for Everyday Life

Glen Aikenhead's new book is being published in December by Teachers College Press. The title is Science education for everyday life: Evidence-based  practice. You can read more about it at the Teachers College Press website,

The following is an introduction to the book, written by Glen for the Cultural Studies in Science Education network and is based on Chapter 1.

By convention, school science has traditionally attempted to prepare students for the next level of science courses by focusing on intellectual knowledge acquisition. Its ultimate purpose has been to funnel capable students into science and engineering degree programs, a phenomenon or ideology often called “the pipeline.” A different point of view for school science is explored in this book.

Most high school students embrace career goals outside the pipeline and often do not feel comfortable in its scientist-oriented ideology. These students experience school science as a foreign culture. They would prefer a science education for everyday life. 

Alternative rationales for the science curriculum have existed since its inception. The most pervasive alternative has been the perspective that celebrates science as a human endeavor, embedded within a social milieu of society and conducted by various social communities of scientists. This view of science is endemic to a long-standing purpose for school science: to develop students’ capacities to function as responsible savvy participants in their everyday lives increasingly affected by science and technology. To function responsibly, people must be able to treat science and technology as “a repository to be raided for what it can contribute to the achievement of practical ends,” such as science-related daily activities, personal problems, social issues, or global concerns. To engage with science and technology toward practical ends, people must be able to critically assess the information they come across and critically evaluate the trustworthiness of the information source. A critical appreciation of science is central to this alternative perspective, for all students.

A minority of science educators has always embraced this alternative student-oriented approach that animates students’ self-identities, their future contributions to society as citizens, and their interest in making personal utilitarian meaning of scientific and technological knowledge. These science educators have written thoughtful accounts for what ought to happen in science classrooms if such a student-oriented ideology is to be realized. This book follows a different agenda. It focuses on the results of research into student-oriented school science that treats science as a human endeavor. 

This alternative to the traditional science curriculum has been called “humanistic” by several well-known science educators. Although the word “humanistic” can have different meanings in different countries and in various scholarly disciplines, and although it has several connotations within education itself, I find “humanistic” the best word to describe the diverse yet pervasive alternative to the pipeline ideology of traditional school science.

In my book I synthesize research that has explored humanistic perspectives in school science, perspectives that significantly alter the tenor of traditional school science. When evidence-based findings are synthesized, trends in the successes and failures of humanistic approaches become apparent. These trends can inform the decisions made at the policy level, the classroom level, and the teacher education level; all focused on evidence-based practice. Strengths and weaknesses in the research itself are identified, thereby providing the reader with fruitful ideas for further research.

Any perspective on school science, be it humanistic or solely scientific, conveys an ideological point of view. My book’s ideology gives priority to a student-oriented point of view aimed at citizens acting as consumers of science and technology in their everyday lives. 

In the political arena defined by the key question, “What knowledge is of most worth?” the research literature expresses essentially two contrary positions, often in combination: (1) the research focuses on educationally driven propositions about what is best for students and society, and (2) the research meets politically driven realities that counteract research findings. For instance, empirical evidence overwhelmingly speaks to the educational failure of traditional school science assessed by its own criteria (Chapter 3), but the continuous survival and high status enjoyed by traditional school science attest to its political success.

The research discussed in this book reflects the tension between educational soundness and political reality. We must never forget that curriculum decisions (What knowledge is of most worth? and Who decides?) are first and foremost political decisions. Although research has a role to inform curriculum decisions concerning a humanistic science curriculum, these supportive evidence-based findings from research tend to wilt in the glare of opposing ideologies. 

Humanistic perspectives in the science curriculum have a long history. Historical research in science education is summarized in Chapter 2, in which I pay particular attention to events occurring after World War II. The chapter provides a context for appreciating both the educationally and politically driven agendas that motivate the research found in the literature, and for understanding the literature’s conceptualizations of a humanistic perspective in school science.

The book encompasses three forms of any curriculum: the intended, taught, and learned curriculum. An intended humanistic curriculum (Chapter 3) relates to curriculum policy that determines which humanistic perspectives are sanctioned and how those decisions are reached. The taught curriculum comprises the classroom materials that support humanistic science teaching (Chapter 4) and the teachers’ orientations that determine what they will implement in their school science (Chapter 5). The learned curriculum, of course, is the content students actually learn, intended or not (Chapter 6). 

Arising from discussions in Chapter 3 on the cultural relevance of school science, Chapter 7 addresses cross-cultural, multicultural, and high-poverty urban issues, including students’ cultural self-identities and the integration of indigenous science in the science curriculum, all in the context of humanistic school science. 

In Chapters 3 to 7, pertinent research studies are synthesized giving emphasis to validated findings and research methods. In my last chapter, Chapter 8, I comment on fertile directions for further research into humanistic school science.

This book reflects the research literature in science education, and thus I address a broad range of transformative agendas concerning student enlightenment and social change. 

In-depth studies into students’ abilities to deal with philosophical and social aspects of science suggest that overt humanistic content is more suitable for students aged 11 and older, and aged 16 or older for controversial issues. Accordingly, my synthesis of the literature restricts itself to school science that serves 11- to 18-year-olds, about grades 6 to 12 in North America.

My goal in writing the book is to advance the ongoing debate over the purpose of school science and over the legitimacy of the traditional pipeline ideology, represented in North America by Project 2061 and Standards. In the book, I explore the evidence-based findings that shed light on school science practice and I place those findings in a context of political reality. The book generally excludes non-research literature that simply advocates a position or offers a rationale for a humanistic perspective. In short, I eschew literature that articulates a perspective to be enacted by others, but I synthesize the research into that enacted perspective. 

Aboriginal Issues Press, University of Manitoba (Canada)

This mob have a number of books about Aboriginal issues in Canada, including one on research. Visit their website at

Alaskan Native Knowledge Network

These people have recently done up their website, at They have also put copies of their newsletter, Sharing our Pathways, online. Click on the Sharing our Pathways index.

My home in Kakadu (Australia)

This is a new book written by Jane Christophersen and illustrated by Christine Christophersen. "Through the eyes of her granddaughter, Tarrah, respected elder, Jane Christophersen reveals the beauty of life in Kakadu National Park and the significance of the changing seasons to those who live there. Join Tarrah as she goes out with her family gathering bush tucker, fishing and hunting." (Back cover)

This book was published by Magabala Books from Broome, Western Australia. You can visit their website at

Five Seasons (Australia)

"The Numurindi people have developed a culture where all things past and present, including the weather, are interrelated. This relationship extends to previous generations, together with the animal and the plant kingdom. Five Seasons explores this intricate relationship through the eyes of the Numurindi people of South East Arnhemland in the Northern Territory's Gulf of Carpentaria.

In this region of Australia, western society operates on two distinct seasons, the wet and the dry. The Numurindi people operate on a calendar that has five seasons. The seasons dictate what their country will provide for them; when the Pandanus nuts turn red and fall from the trees it is time that the sea turtles are laying their eggs which are a delicacy. Turtle eggs are a much favoured food source for the people." (Cover)

This program was recently screened by SBS in Australia. It was produced and is also available from CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association ( for about $30 (VHS and DVD). The CAAMA website is currently being revamped, so you may have order by e-mail.  It is also available from Ronin Films ( who have a different pricing structure.

Recent papers

Michell, Herman. (in press). “Nēhîthâwâk” of Reindeer Lake (Canada):  Worldview, Epistemology, and Relationships with the Natural World. Canadian Journal of Native Education. 

Abstract: The purpose of this exploratory article is to illustrate the worldview, epistemology, and relationship with the natural world from a Nēhîthâwâk [Woodlands Cree] perspective.  The contents of the article represent a personal narrative of an educator of Woodlands Cree cultural heritage from the Reindeer Lake area of northern Canada.  A brief history of the Woodlands Cree is shared in order to provide a context for my perspectives as ‘an insider’ of this way of life.  This is followed by an attempt to articulate fundamental key concepts in relation to traditional Woodlands Cree education, worldview, epistemology, language, values, and practices as they are informed by relationships with the land, plants and animals. The text is highly subjective and culturally contextualized.  Sources are cited where appropriate.


Herman Michell teaches science at the First Nations University in Canada. To obtain a pre-print copy of the paper by e-mail, you can contact him at



(Re) Contesting Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Studies Conference 2006

Engaging the interfaces between Indigenous educators, Non-indigenous educators and Indigenous Communities
Gold Coast Marriott Hotel, Surfers Paradise - Queensland Australia, 28, 29 & 30 June 2006

About the Conference
The Indigenous Knowledges Conference begins 28 June 2006 and concludes 30 June 2006. It will be hosted by QUT Oodgeroo Unit at Gold Coast Marriott Hotel  located at Surfers Paradise Queensland, Australia. more...

Conference aims
An important aim of this conference is to engage with colleagues in a way that generates recognition and understanding of the spaces from within which other‚ knowledge is constrained, and particularly how and by whom those spaces have been controlled. From the engagement across many cultural interfaces, new understandings of Indigenous standpoint theory can be discussed.

Who should attend?
People involved in teaching and learning, research scholarship, and community knowledge and development are invited to share their experiences within this cultural interface. Specifically
* Indigenous school teachers, teachers at Indigenous schools
* Academics
* TAFE teachers and administrators
* Education Departments
* Students
* Community Organisations
* Professional Associations
* Community members and groups
* Government Departments and agencies
* NGOs
* Indigenous Networks

Conference contact
If you have any questions about the conference, or your conference registration, please contact the Conference Secretariat, Kerry Williams, Indigenous Knowledge Conference, Email:

Eleventh Annual International Conference

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, "Shaping the Future of Science, Mathematics and Technical Education", May 22-25, 2006.

Our intention is for the conference to provide the opportunity for papers, presentations and discussions to explore how we can shape the future of education in Science, Mathematics and Technical Education

The following increasingly emphasised issues may shape the future in Science, Mathematics and Technical education:-

the rights of all children to be educated
sustainable development
deployment of ICT
integration of common skills and thinking abilities
problem solving
multiple demands on educators
partnership with business and industry

The conference would like to acknowledge and recognise creative investigations or avenues to shape the future in science, mathematics and technical education.

XII IOSTE Symposium: Science and Technology Education in the Service of Humankind

30 July - 4 August 2006, Penang, Malaysia (hosted by the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia)

The XII IOSTE Symposium plans to produce an action-oriented framework document charting the way forward on STE as a declaration for IOSTE. Plenary session speakers will be identified to write a concept paper (one for each of the Symposium sub-themes) by identifying challenging issues, trends and recommendations on what need to be done vis-à-vis the sub-themes from a worldwide as well as regional or national perspectives. The concept papers will then be posted on the website and circulated to the intending participants, inviting for comments, critiques, and suggestions. With the feedback, the speaker will prepare the final paper for presentation at the Symposium plenary session. The presentation will be followed by discussion sessions to synthesise the contents of IOSTE declaration.


Promoting peaceful and ethical use of Science and Technology through STE

  • STE for Sustainable Development, Empowerment and International Understanding
  • STE from different cultural and humanistic perspectives: promoting international collaboration and understanding through cultural diversity
  • Making relevance of effective teaching-learning in STE
 For more information, visit

12th Gender And Science And Technology (GASAT12) International Conference
of Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom,
3 – 8 September 2006.

Deadline February 28th, 2006: Submission of the following are due: a)      An extended Abstract of your Paper (750-1000 words) or b)  a description and justification of your poster paper/workshop/roundtable (350-400).For more information e-mail (some information available from Michael Michie).



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.

December 2005

2-4 December 2005: ANZCIES 2005 Annual Conference: "Questioning 'Best Practice' in Education: Benefits and Disadvantages, Debates and Dilemmas", Coffs Harbour NSW Australia (Oct05)

6-8 December 2005: International conference on Maths and Science Education, SEAMEO RECSAM, Penang (Malaysia). (June 05)

January 2006

6-9 January: Hawaii International Conference on Education, Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki Hotel, Oahu, Hawaii.

7 January: The Multiple Faces of Agency: Innovative Strategies for Effecting Change in Urban School Contexts. Institute on Science Education Research at the Hawaii International Conference on Education. (Oct05)

22-25 January 2006: NZ Association of Environmental Education biennial conference - Turning Point - "Taka huri haere mai te wa" which will be held in Auckland. (June05)

February 2006

12-16 February 2006: Third International Conference on Ethnomathematics, Auckland Aotearoa New Zealand. To be sent notices of the conference, please email your expression of interest to: Berlane Martins, or visit (Oct05)

April 2006

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

7-11 April: 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)

June 2006

28-30 June 2006: (Re) Contesting Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Studies Conference 2006, Gold Coast Marriott Hotel, Surfers Paradise - Queensland Australia, 28, 29 & 30 June 2006, (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)

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

September 2006

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

November 2006

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

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)

Best wishes to you all and I look forward to working with you next year.

Michael Michie

Last updated: 3 December 2005