Creative Journal One:

cjr1

When pondering upon the things that matter most to me, I cannot help but mention the environment we live in. As I further my scientific knowledge, I gain a stronger appreciation for the things that I see, hear, touch, taste, smell, can do, and can coexist with. My recent travels to Hawaii were liberating; confirming that my presence in this space is meaningful, purposeful, and cannot be taken for granted. As I experienced new life in the ocean, I felt connected to the creatures beneath the water. Each with their own brilliant colour and methods of movement, I was fascinated by the world we often forget exists, but the world which greatly effects our place on this Earth. I related deeply to the Sound of Silver Bells by Robin Wall Kimmerer. As a science student, majority of my learning involves theoretical, hypothetical, or observed processes which are discussed in a classroom setting. It was rare to see these things talked about so regularly observed in live action. The students, biologists rather, embarking on the journey with Robin reminded me of myself, and the first time an instructor took our teaching outside the classroom roughly four months ago. This moment surveying plants disrupted all pedagogy I was exposed to prior and catalyzed the realization I was missing for so long; I am part of this environment and it is part of me too.

This realization seems so simple yet is lacked by so many science students I know. I began to connect this thought to all things I saw in the environment, particularly while in Hawaii. The bright and beautiful colours of these fish swim within me. The sand I grew to know so well runs in my blood, but as minerals necessary for survival. The sun kisses my skin, sometimes a little too affectionately. The green grass, the trees, and all the plants provide me with air to breathe and food to eat. All of these worlds collide with mine; they flow into me. Ignoring this would be the largest disservice I could do to myself. Ignoring the ways in which I am in this place and how this place is in me means I could not successfully save this place nor save myself. I am motivated more than ever to do better.

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CJ1 – What Does the Environment Mean to You?

Who am I?

Hello! My name is Natalie Selinger. I am currently in my third year of studies at the University of Regina. I hope to complete a Secondary Education degree with a major in Biology and a minor in Inclusive Education. I am very passionate about all aspects of science, health, sport, art, inclusion, and community. I hope to reinvent the ways in which we think about, teach, and approach scientific concepts. This includes the introduction of Indigenous ways of knowing, inquiry approach, and problem solving.

I am employed at EYES where in May and June, I deliver educational and uplifting workshops from students in grades one through nine who attend schools across southern Saskatchewan. In July and August, I am an instructor who leads a science, engineering, and technology camp weekly at the university. Here I do scientific demonstrations as well as guide campers through activities rooted in science, engineering, and technology practices created by the staff. The activities and demonstrations correspond with the Saskatchewan curricula for grades one through nine. In the fall and winter months, I am an EYES Clubs instructor, where I develop new activities and demonstrations that campers can explore on Saturday afternoons. I have also created an All Girls Club, a branch of EYES which focuses on encouraging young girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math careers. This program occurs after school and tackles relevant global issues such as climate change, sustainable energy sources, infrastructure design, and technological discoveries.

When I am not at the university working or attending classes, I enjoy playing and coaching ringette. I have been a member of the ringette community for over ten years and began coaching fall of 2017. I discovered a lot about myself coaching a young group of grade four to six girls and further developed myself as an instructor, motivator, and positive role model. Ringette itself has taught me fantastic teamwork and social skills including patience, compassion, positivity, and the importance of listening.

I have always been interested in the area of teaching and am ecstatic to be starting my journey! Explore the various pages to learn more.

Curriculum as Literacy

Reflecting on my schooling experience as well as my upbringing, I have come to realize my worldview has changed dramatically, my knowledge of certain topics has (hopefully) increased, and the biases I carry have shifted. Although I would love to believe I grew up without influence from racial, sexual, gender, or other biases, I know this is not the case. I along with many others in Saskatchewan grew up in a neighbourhood that had a strong white majority, attended religious schools with very few differing racial groups, was not exposed to the LGBTQ+ community, and did not quite understand why or how any marginalized group concerned me. It is safe to say I did not know diversity and how powerful it could be.

I heard many ‘single stories’ of different cultures and groups most of which were extremely stereotypical, heteronormative, and racist. They ranged anywhere from impoverished Africans who lived in clay huts, Asians who were bad drivers, Indigenous peoples who received everything for free, white men who were most qualified, to sitting with a young boy while in grade one and having everyone ask if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. These narratives are extremely harmful. Reinforcing such narratives learned through popular culture, media, family, and friends, encourage a ‘superior’ person and oppress everyone else.

It is evident I was exposed to biases that moulded me into a person who was uneducated,  misunderstanding, and had plenty of room for improvement. Had I not decided to actively unlearn such biases to ensure I do not oppress my future students, I may have been an educator who made incorrect assumptions, reinforced stereotypes, and brushed off the importance of activism and social justice. The classroom environment would have been far from inclusive and I could have potentially harmed students with my previous and incorrect understanding of certain groups and communities.

It is crucial educators undergo this transition to unlearn these biases by educating oneself on the facts, considering many biases stem from little evidence and consideration or are simply dated from many years ago. Making effort to keep an open, but critical mind is also important as this will filter content which may not be logical or just while being available to hear the perspectives and opinions of others. Listening to a person can be very beneficial! Ultimately, everyone will make the decision for themselves to unlearn such biases when they are ready or see necessary. It is unfortunate some people may see no opportunity to make this change but I am thrilled that I decided to do this in my young adulthood. I could not imagine living how I was raised any longer. I would like to believe my parents, family, teachers, and peers had positive intentions but they imposed views onto me which I did not create for myself.  I will work for the rest of my life on recovering from such biases and work hard to not pass the biases I carry with me to my students or family in the future. This will be a life long battle and I will learn everyday, but I am thankful I have the opportunity to change my life which will better myself and the lives of those around me.

 

Curriculum as Citizenship

Reflecting on my K-12 schooling, it is evident an attempt to engage in the three types of citizenship were made. The success of those attempts, however, was extremely varied. Growing up in a middle-class and attending catholic schooling neighbourhood generated plenty of opportunities to connect with charities, do ‘good’ deeds, and enforce responsibility. I recall the first charitable encounter in school I had was the Terry Fox walk-a-thon in September of my kindergarten year. Prizes were donated by families and students were able to purchase tickets towards the items which would be raffled off. I recall winning a few items with the tickets from money my parents sent for me. I remember being so excited! I also probably cared about Terry Fox for a few days and then moved onto the next exciting thing in my life.

This pattern continued with many other moments throughout my schooling for other attempts to make a difference in the community. Canvassing for the juvenile diabetes was one that hit home as I knew I was helping a close friend who had the disease. Shopping for a young girl my own age and creating an angel box for her then delivering it to her at her school was one of my favourite memories. Extreme pressure from my Chaplin in high school to, once again, beat our previous record and maintaining the title of collecting the most food for a food drive was not my favourite time. What was the difference? What types of citizenship were achieved through these actions?

It is clear that my elementary and high school tried to create participatory citizens. They enforced actions of personally responsible citizens and encouraged students to dig deeper in their understanding. For some of these examples such canvassing for juvenile diabetes, I felt that I could connect with the issues and perhaps understand them to become a justice oriented citizen in those areas. For others such as the food drive, discussing the root causes of hunger and the urge to pursue more were never encountered.

Overall, it appears that throughout my schooling there was always an attempt to create personal responsible citizens. I would argue my previous educators tried to encourage participatory citizens but this sometimes fell short. Justice oriented citizens were sometimes encouraged but were often rare. To better create these citizens, it is essential educators spend time discussing these social justice issues with students and ensuring they understand the importance. Connecting each action to a real-world issue could help students to better understand and desire justice.

Curriculum as Numeracy

Prior to Gale’s lecture, I did not consider myself much of a math person. I have struggled my whole life with my passion and understanding of science compared to my lack of understanding and (unfortunately) dislike of math. I thought I was supposed to be a math AND science person! While I understand this statement is not entirely accurate, my hardships I encountered in math throughout my K-12 schooling steered me away from the subject. After all, I was told that my difficulty to comprehend was normal as topics were very challenging and “math was probably not for me”. This was likely because my teachers grew up hearing the same thing from their educators, who grew up learning the same thing from their educators, and so on and so forth. I feel this is a vicious cycle which absolutely needs to be broken.

Somewhere between grade six and grade twelve there was a hiccup. I went from completing the long division math worksheets fastest and most accurately with a smile on my face to forcing myself to complete calculus 30 for my undergraduate degree. Being one of two females in that class is a problamatic story for another blog. What went wrong? I realize now the language used by many of my educators and even my parents was discouraging and oppressive. Most role models in my life were actively feeding into my slender dislike in the subject which grew larger each year. I was taught that not being good at math, or a particular part of math, was no issue at all. After hearing this so often, I started to believe it. My math grades were now significantly lower than any other subject (I know, not just about the number but again that is for another blog post). I was exposed to one form of assessment – exams. Just my luck, this is the one form of assessment I tend to struggle with. By creating a curriculum and classroom which is not inclusive to all learners and arguably supporting failure or misunderstanding is doing a great injustice to our students.

Poitier’s article speaks on how mathematics can extend past the common Euro-centric idea. Inuit cultures have been doing math differently, yet efficiently and accurately for their culture for many years. One difference is the number base system, which is base-20 in Inuit cultures compared to base-10 in Western cultures. Neither of these is better or more correct, rather they compliment and correspond to the culture. Second, Inuit mathematics incorporates real-world objects, places, etcetera into their teachings which makes comprehension easier. An example may be their keen understanding of space due to spatial recognition skills. This can help to identify good hunting areas by examining previous human occupancy or to estimate the amount of unit (time, distance) to their desired location by smelling or seeing landmarks. A third example is how the Inuit emphasize collaboration. In any math class I have experienced previously, it involved either note taking or reading a hand out provided by the educator alongside independent work on an exam, textbook questions, or worksheet. Overall, it was very private. However, Poitier discusses how collaboration in mathematics can not only better the experience for all involved, but also provide students with an increased understanding of the topic as the acquire more than one thought or idea.

Incorporating these Inuit ways of knowing would certainly have helped me succeed in math as a student. I have reflected on my past math experiences since Gale’s lecture and have realized some of the issues within the ways math is taught to students. Oppressing should never be the solution. I am more eager than ever to challenge myself to find inclusive and anti-oppresive practices for teaching topics which are often deemed black or white. After all, who knows what I would feel about math had I been encouraged to, and given the resources to keep trying.

 

We Are All Treaty People

Sadly, upon reading the email that was sent to Mike I found myself asking “was this an intern at my high school?”. Rather white-washed and privileged, my high school graduating class would have mirrored the class described in the email, likely because we were ignorant and racist but also because we simply did not know better. I remember our Social Studies 30 teacher brushing off the Indigenous curriculum connections and focusing on European colonization with little to no mention of Indigenous peoples. How can we effectively learn about the history of our country without mention of the contribution of, harm to, and mass genocide of Indigenous peoples? Why are we ignoring such a significant piece of our story?

I choose to believe we ignore this because we were largely in the wrong and our acts at this time were unjust. As Canadian settlers we have the privilege to choose what we wish and do not wish to remember. We can pretend colonization occurred simply with a boat and two feet. You and I both know this is ridiculous, and the ignorance we express, not to mention the acts of violence and awful assimilation attempts, have oppressed our Indigenous populations.

As a resident of Canada and specifically a settler, one may ask if their knowledge of Indigenous history is of importance? The answer should always be a definite yes. No matter the demographics of a classroom, Indigenous content should be incorporated because this is the history of our country. Until we decolonize, eliminate stereotypes through education, and demonstrate commitment to reconciliation Indigenous peoples, the First Peoples of this nation, will face hardships. Until we recognize the privilege we have to not only construct a new past which we may believe to fit a kinder narrative, but also the privilege we have everyday as settlers in this country, we cannot effectively filter the anti-Indigenous racism and ideals in our Saskatchewan air. Like other pollutants, I hope we can eliminate this through education.

Canadian citizenship or residence also brings Treaty Peoples status, meaning if you live in Canada you become a Treaty Person. This is because we are occupying treaty land which is to be shared with all peoples in a way which respects the Earth and those around us. It is the responsibility put onto us that we connect and cooperate with others for the benefit of all. As Chambers states, “this last chance to stop moving and start listening” (Chambers, p. 35). It is our duty to respect all forms of life and all things around us, as Indigenous Peoples do. It is time we begin to uphold this responsibility. As educators, we are role models for our students. If we positively model everything that comes with being a Treaty Person, they will understand the importance.

As I reflect on my time at Treaty Ed camp, some of these ideas have come full circle. I will continue to challenge myself to broaden the content I teach to include Indigenous ways of knowing which will not only benefit my Indigenous students, but all my students. They will be exposed to new perspectives which will provide them with better problem solving skills which can apply to science and cross-curriculuarly. I have vowed to always try my best as Edward Doolittle describes that sharing Indigenous knowledge doe snot need to be done perfectly, rather just needs to be delivered with your best effort. Previously, I was very nervous about teaching Indigenous content as I was afraid to mess up words or phrases, especially in front of an Indigenous audience. I have since realized that focusing on perfection was holding me back from the experience of learning, and was holding students back from those experiences as well. I would refrain from taking risks or challenging thinking because I did not always know the answers myself. However, this was wrong of me and that is what makes learning best for both the educator and learner! In my opinion, there is nothing better than learning alongside your students. Overall, Treaty Ed camp assisted in my commitment to being a life-long learner as I extend my field of interest to Indigenous education. I am thrilled to learn more about this topic and will be attending again next year.