FAQ: QUILLS Teacher’s Guide

Q: What is QUILLS? 

A: The Queen’s University Indigenous Land-based Learning STEM (QUILLS) Program is five STEM Learning Bundles bringing together Indigenous land-based knowledge, Ontario Science curriculum outcomes, and locally conducted STEM studies. QUILLS is a collaborative project, drawing on the expertise of local Indigenous knowledge holders, teachers, and Queen’s STEM faculty, and is geared towards integrating the themes of the biodiversity crisis, global climate change, traditional Indigenous knowledge systems and the environment, invasive species, and contaminants in the environment.

Q: What information can I find in the teacher guide?

The QUILLS Teacher Guide offers guidance for teachers on how to effectively integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and being into their teaching practice, including building relationships with Indigenous community members, understanding the history of colonization, and following Indigenous protocols on knowledge sharing. The guide emphasizes the importance of holistic education, Two-Eyed Seeing, storytelling, and incorporating Indigenous languages and knowledge in STEM learning. Teachers can use the information in this guide to enhance their understanding of Indigenous perspectives and develop culturally responsive teaching practices in STEM education.

Q: What is Indigenous land-based knowledge (ILBK)?

A: Indigenous land-based knowledge encompasses the belief that the land serves as a primary teacher, offering valuable lessons on how to conduct oneself in a good way in the world. It involves community-based learning under the guidance of community members and knowledge keepers. In the model of land-based learning, elders act as conduits for youth to discern the teachings of the land. In this way, knowledge is passed from generation to generation, as it has for millennia. The sophisticated body of land-based knowledge is holistic, encompassing mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual components.

Q: How does land education differ from land-based education?

A: Land-based education is an approach where Indigenous peoples view the land as a teacher and learning occurs in community contexts under the guidance of community members and knowledge keepers. It focuses on connecting students to the land and its teachings, emphasizing Indigenous knowledge and the value inherent in it. On the other hand, land education goes a step further by explicitly naming, problematizing, and addressing the European fabrication of Indigenous inferiority and its manufactured justification for settler-occupation of Indigenous land. It centers Indigenous epistemologies, languages, practices, and critiques of settler colonialism, aiming to disrupt Eurocentrism and explore the impact of colonialism on local landscapes and Indigenous populations. While both approaches involve learning in relation to the land, land education can take place both outside on the land and inside the classroom by examining the impacts of colonization in different contexts.

Q: Can land education take place both outside and inside the classroom?

A: Yes, land education can occur both outside on the land and inside the classroom. While exploring the impacts of colonization in outdoor settings, such as observing colonial land-use policies’ effects on the natural world, similar learning can also happen in a classroom environment. For example, analyzing how land is portrayed in textbooks can help students think critically about the impacts of colonization. Land education seeks to provide opportunities for critical reflection and understanding, regardless of the learning environment.

Q: How can non-Indigenous teachers effectively integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and being into their teaching practice?

A: As non-Indigenous educators, it is important to recognize the professional responsibility to center Indigenous ways of knowing and being in teaching practices, as outlined in the TRC’s Calls to Action. This looks like actively engaging in the process of decolonizing educational spaces, reducing the emotional labor placed on Indigenous educators, and working towards reconciliation. This requires building relationships with Indigenous community members, seeking their guidance, and integrating Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum. Teachers should engage in additional background work to understand the history of colonization, its impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and the marginalization of Indigenous knowledge systems. This can be achieved through taking Additional Qualifications (AQs), attending professional development (PD) sessions, and doing additional reading. Building meaningful relationships with community members who are willing to share teachings is also crucial.

Q: What is Two-Eyed Seeing? How can teachers use it in the classroom?

A: Two-eyed seeing is a model that combines Indigenous ways of knowing and being with mainstream knowledge systems to create a mutually beneficial approach. It emphasizes finding common ground between the two knowledge systems while also maintaining their distinctiveness. Two-Eyed Seeing aims to avoid assimilation and cultural clashes by honoring and celebrating both knowledge systems. It encourages individuals to appreciate aspects of each system without having to relinquish their own knowledge base.

Teachers can play a vital role in cultivating Two-Eyed Seeing by incorporating Indigenous knowledge into their teaching practices, providing resources that strengthen both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems, and creating an environment of respect and reciprocity between the two ways of knowing.

Q: What is holistic education and why is it important in STEM learning?

A: Holistic education ensures that students’ emotional, spiritual, and physical growth and well-being are nurtured alongside their cognitive development. By using a holistic approach, all students feel valued, included, and supported as a whole person, no matter the subject. This increases points of entry and engagement for students. 

Q: What is the difference between Indigenization and decolonization?

A: Decolonization involves dismantling Eurocentrism and addressing the impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples, institutions, and the land. It challenges the belief that European ways of knowing are superior. Indigenization, on the other hand, centers and reaffirms Indigenous ways of knowing, thinking, feeling, and being. It involves reconnecting to Indigenous land-based lifeways and elevating Indigenous voices, traditions, and cultures. Indigenization moves beyond tokenistic gestures and aim for equitable integration of Indigenous knowledge systems with non-Indigenous systems.

Q: How can teachers avoid cultural appropriation when Indigenizing their teaching?

A: To avoid cultural appropriation, teachers should prioritize relationship building with Indigenous community members and involve them in the classroom whenever possible. It is essential to follow the guidance of community members, use vetted learning resources, and be mindful of the impact of programming. Teachers should refer to suggested activities, follow the QUILLS Teacher’s Guide, and participate in professional development sessions to ensure a respectful and culturally appropriate approach to Indigenization.

Q: What does it mean to state your positionality when integrating ILBK? How can sharing positionality benefit the learning environment?

A: Stating your positionality means providing information about who you are, where you are from, and your relationship to the land-base. It creates a space for participants in the learning environment to understand each other’s stories, lived experiences, and potential biases.

 Sharing positionality helps educators model humility, vulnerability, and honesty. It fosters trusting and respectful relationships with students and creates an environment where educators and students can learn from each other. It also aligns with values such as respect, relationship, reciprocity, and mindfulness in holistic education.

Q: What does it mean to locate knowledge? Why is it important to practice locating knowledge?

A: Locating the knowledge involves sharing information about the sources from which you gained knowledge and where those individuals are from. It honors the web of community relations and acknowledges the traditional territory where the knowledge originates.

Practicing knowledge location helps honor the origins of knowledge and respect the community protocols surrounding knowledge sharing. It also provides students with avenues to seek further information and engage with the knowledge in a respectful and responsible manner.

Q: What does it mean to follow protocol in ILBK integration? Why is it important to follow protocol when integrating ILBK?

A: Following protocol means respecting the customs, traditions, and knowledge sharing practices of Indigenous peoples. It involves forming genuine relationships with Indigenous communities, accepting answers even if they differ from expectations, and approaching relationships with mindfulness, respect, humility, and good intentions.

Teachers can navigate the integration process in a culturally appropriate and responsible manner by ensuring protocol is followed, knowledge and experience sharing are reciprocal and respectful. This will help to avoid cultural appropriation, offensive blunders, and the essentialization of Indigenous cultures. 

Q: How can teachers involve community members in the classroom?

A: Teachers can connect with Elders, Knowledge Keepers directly if available and appropriate or through Indigenous liaison officers at their school division office to build relationships with Indigenous community members. These relationships should be based on reciprocity, respect, and understanding of the expertise and time community members offer. 

Q: What is the protocol to thank Indigenous knowledge keepers?

A: Tobacco is considered a sacred medicine by many Indigenous nations and is offered as a sign of respect, gratitude, and a way to set good intentions. It can be gifted to Elders, Knowledge Keepers, community members in exchange for knowledge or help to show respect and gratitude. Check what the gifting protocols are for the specific culture of your guest, however, as traditions vary culture to culture. 

Q: Why are Indigenous languages important in the STEM curriculum? How can teachers incorporate Indigenous languages into STEM activities?

A: Indigenous languages are important vessels for transmitting Indigenous knowledge, andculture. The polysynthetic nature of Indigenous languages reflects the Indigenous belief of the interconnectedness of all things. Incorporating traditional Indigenous languages into STEM learning and teaching the structure and story behind the diction provides a pathway for Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum.

Teachers can incorporate traditional Indigenous languages into experiential science activities by using local community language resources or inviting language revitalization groups to support the integration of Indigenous languages. Additionally, you can find Anishinaabemowin and Kanyen’kéha words and phrases integrated into the QUILLS learning bundles. Take the time to learn and teach these words to your students. Oral recordings of each word can be found on the QUILLS website.

Q: Why is storytelling important in STEM learning? How can it be incorporated into STEM learning?

A: Storytelling is an integral aspect of Indigenous pedagogy and enables holistic learning by combining values, concepts, practices, and facts into narratives. Stories help develop listening and critical thinking skills while integrating STEM education with subjects like English Language Arts and Indigenous language learning.

To integrate storytelling into your lessons, you can invite Indigenous storytellers to the classroom or read written versions of traditional stories that are relevant to the learning. The QUILLS Learning Bundles include many embedded stories that provide a foundation for understanding Indigenous perspectives. Take the time to read these stories with your students and explore their connections to STEM concepts.

Q: What are Talking Circles, and how can they be used in STEM education?

A: Talking circles are traditional methods of discussion, perspective sharing, and decision-making used in many Indigenous communities. They create opportunities for understanding, connecting, and passing on cultural knowledge. Talking circles encourage equitable participation, respectful listening, and value diverse perspectives. Engaging in talking circles can help decolonize educational systems and environments.

Q: How can I facilitate a Talking Circle in the classroom?

A: Before engaging in a talking circle, it is recommended to follow three approaches: “situated relatedness,” “respectful listening,” and “reflective witnessing.” Participants should situate themselves within time, space, and relationships, actively and respectfully listen to others’ lived experiences. During a Talking Circle, participants often pass around an object that symbolizes their relationship with the land on which the circle is formed. Only the person holding the object speaks while others practice active listening. The direction of movement around the circle may vary depending on cultural traditions. In the Katarokwi region, participants can choose to move either left or right. 

Q: What areas should teachers assess in addition to cognitive growth? What are some examples of holistic assessment tools?

A: In a holistic learning environment, Teachers are also assessing a student’s emotional, physical, and spiritual growth and well-being. Some examples of holistic assessment tools include learning bundles/learning logs, storytelling, community projects, journals, photo essays, and real-world connections. Assessments should be rigorous, but they should also be accessible to all students. Teachers should have high expectations for all learners and provide assessments rooted in Indigenous education that provide experiences for students to further understand and strengthen their own gifts, identity, and responsibility to themselves and those around them.