“The conceptualizations and analyses of place defined in geographical and metaphorical terms play a significant role in understanding curriculum and are an exciting, important and ever-increasing discourse in the field of curriculum studies.”
This week for ECS 210 the class was required to read a short article called “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing.” I really enjoyed this article and I think it was a great way to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum discussion. I have always found Indigenous teaching to be so interesting and I wish I would have had the opportunity throughout my grade school experience to learn from elders. They give their perspective on different situations and now that I have had the opportunity to meet many elders through my university experience, I have grown a love for their storytelling. This article reflected on a research project that was conducted to honor the Mushkegowuk Cree community concepts of the land, environment, and life. It followed the experience of joining young individuals of the community with the elders and going on an excursion past the river, doing interviews amongst the community, and making an audio documentary to tell their story.
While reading the article, we were asked to reflect on ways that we saw reinhabitation and decolonization throughout the narrative. The first way I noticed that the narrative was supporting reinhabitation and decolonization was through joining elders, youth and the generations in between on a voyage along the river to learn about the history, significance of the river, related issues of governance and land management, and the culture of the community. “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge.” Bringing the many generations together allowed the community to reclaim the traditional knowledge of the culture. The next way I noticed reinhabitation and decolonization occurring was through creating an audio documentary about the river and the experience of the young individuals learning about their traditional ways of knowing and being re-introduced to this information in a way that allowed them to explore with other individuals who shared the same interests. By hearing from all different voices of the community such as band office, the health center, education system, elders and youth groups allowed for community involvement and overall re-connecting a community that was beginning to become lost through colonization. They then took the documentary that contained these interviews and experiences that youth individuals made and spread it both around the community and on the radio to reach a broader audience. This not only allowed community members to become educated about the history, land, and ways of knowing that is being shared across generations but also individuals who live outside of the community. The excursion not only allowed youth to become connected with the land and their elders, but also to recognize their home language and reclaim the names of the land that was set before colonization. This gave the youth an even stronger connection to their community and allowed to understand more deeply how colonization truly affected their community in all different aspects. The large focus on the word “paquataskamik” which means “natural environment” was an “attempt to retain a relationship to the rivers, the lands, and the communities joined together by them.” This trip not only rekindled old relationships amongst the community but also new relationships were formed both between people and the land and culture. I found this quote from the article summed up the purpose perfectly: “the project has been about fostering the development of meaningful space for inter-generational dialogue and community research on social and economic relationships rooted in Mushkegowuk conceptions of life and traditional territory.”
When referring to curriculum as place we are looking at the broader context of the community we are teaching in. After reading the article I made some connections of how I could adapt these ideas towards the grade levels I plan to teach in my future career (elementary education). I understand that doing curriculum as place allows teachers to give young children opportunities to view and understand the community in different ways. By doing these kinds of experiences allows students to broaden their understandings to the community around them as well as begin to understand the history this country was built on and begin to move forward with a different mindset than the generations before them. It would be most beneficial to be able to do an excursion like the one that was described in the article, however, with the budget, and the age of the children I plan on teaching it may not be suitable. That does not mean that students should miss out on experiences like this! This experience along with many that involve curriculum as place can be easily modified to fit the needs of your classroom and students. I would start by bringing elders and other voices into my classroom to allow my students to learn from other individuals other than myself. As noted from many other classes, it is important to give students a wide range of voices to learn from to allow them to reach their fullest potential in learning. Bringing in experts of fields will make it more real and relatable for the students. I would also adapt the place component by recreating such discovery in the area of the school grounds and around the community. Allowing children to explore the outdoors to gain respect for the land that supports them and learn through storytelling. In ECE 325 we also focus on the environment inside the classroom. We focus on the importance of bringing the natural world into the classroom to allow for a room that reflects what children see throughout their everyday life. By bringing nature into the classroom would also change the dynamic of the traditional classroom that is outlined in previous lectures and readings that have been discussed throughout this course.
Overall, this reading has allowed me to understand that curriculum if implemented positively and restructured to fit the needs of our students and the community, learning can stretch much farther than the classroom, as well as shift the view of the classroom in general! After the lecture, I now am ready to continue my life long journey to find who I truly am as an individual and what changes we need to make to our own lives to benefit our students learning and lives in the most positive ways possible.