16 Science First Peoples Teacher Resource Guide

Kirsten Wirsz; Sarah Keane; and Vanessa Magtibay

Contributors’s Biographies:
Kirsten Wirsz is in the final year of completing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Sociology and minoring in History. Kirsten aspires to be an elementary school teacher and enjoys working with grades four and five. Kirsten is passionate about teaching in various ways and integrating Indigenous perspectives into the education system and in the future.
Sarah Keane is a fourth-year student working towards a Bachelor in Arts with a double minor in English and Sociology.
Vanessa Magtibay is a fourth-year student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University majoring in General studies and minoring in Journalism. They have always had the dream to be a teacher and be part of the education system. Learning about all the wonderful Indigenous resources available has been very helpful and they look forward to incorporating them in their teachings as a future educator. 


Resource Overview

Weblink PDF Document:

First Nations Education Steering Committee. (2016). Science First Peoples teacher resource guide: Grades 5-9. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/PUBLICATION-61496-Science-First-Peoples-2016-Full-F-WEB.pdf

Grade Level: Grades five to nine


The Science First Peoples guide seeks convergence of Indigenous Knowledges and contemporary evidence-based science. The resource discusses perspectives from numerous traditional territories including: Kwadacha First Nation, Tk’emlúps First Nation, or Tsawwassen First Nation, Tahltan First Nation, Dakelh First Nation or Nuxalk First Nation, Secwepemc First Nation, Haida First Nation, Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, Sto:lo First Nation, Musqueam First Nation, Lil’wat First Nation, Nle’kepmxcinm First Nation, Tsilhquot’in First Nation, Sanikiluaq First Nation.

It aims to incorporate holistic understanding into the Grades five to nine Science curriculum (First Nations Education Steering Committee [FNESC], 2016). The resource helps educators teach Science from Indigenous perspectives, provides strategies to assist Indigenous participants’ engagement, and explains Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land. Additionally, it utilizes Indigenous pedagogies to promote learning through Indigenous worldviews (FNESC, 2016). It helps “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect” (FNESC, 2016, p 63). It also includes information on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and the interconnectedness of Ecology (FNESC, 2016, p. 44). The resource summarizes seven techniques that Indigenous Peoples’ use to sustainably live off the land, including soil aeration, crop rotation, selective harvesting, replanting, pruning, landscape burning, and women as managers. It highlights the connection to the land on which people reside and the many uses of various plants, animals, and their components. It highlights that Indigenous Knowledges includes the culmination of scientific and evidence-based learning. Lastly, it teaches the connection of the environment to animals, humans, geography, weather conditions, and storytellers.

Significant Indigenous Knowledge: 

The teaching guide highlights six main components: interconnectedness, connection to the land and sense of place, stewardship and sustainability, language, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and Indigenous pedagogies, all working together to embody relevant Indigenous Knowledges and perspectives within science. 


Beginning with interconnectedness, the guide acknowledges that everything in the universe, including humans, is connected to nature and must be respected and cared for. Essentially, all life is interconnected and interrelated. Indigenous practices understand balance and how species rely on each other for survival. They recognize that each species in this world needs each other in some way or another.


Next, the resource states that the Indigenous beliefs regarding the connection to the land and sense of place are influenced by emotional and spiritual connections, thus creating strong relationships with Earth. Indigenous Peoples’ understanding of land has been passed on through generations, and these understandings of the land have contributed to the longevity of Indigenous communities (FNESC, 2016).


As for stewardship and sustainability, Indigenous Peoples have fostered practices that sustain and care for the land. Land and resources sustain Indigenous Peoples and their culture. Therefore, part of this practice includes giving back to the land by utilizing natural resources effectively (FNESC, 2016).


The Science First Peoples teaching guide states that Indigenous Knowledges and understanding are passed down to future generations through language. Language may include using Indigenous languages to name physical places, as well as incorporating language in the practice of storytelling. Elders are the keepers of Traditional Knowledge and share meaningful connections to science. This lesson shows the importance of learning through storytelling as it discusses Elders carrying knowledge to younger generations regarding the significance of their environment (FNESC, 2016, p. 48).


For Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), the resource recognizes that Indigenous Peoples hold Knowledges about the natural world and environment, which helps participants learn about sustainability and resource management (FNESC, 2016). The interconnectedness factor is also a crucial part of TEK since Indigenous Knowledges state that we are all interrelated with land. The land is an essential part of physical beings and culture.


Lastly, Indigenous pedagogy fundamentally encourages inquiry-based learning in which participants and educators learn together. The participants are responsible for their education, and educators assist in teaching concepts (FNESC, 2016).


Necessary Prior Knowledge:

Before using this resource, it is recommended that the educator becomes familiar with the topic of interconnectedness between land, animals, language, culture, beliefs, topography, and other significant resources (FNESC, 2016, p. 44-48). To teach this resource, the educator must understand that contemporary science, Indigenous Knowledges, and the typical science curriculum can converge. The educator should also understand the relationships between the beings and how they work together to maintain balance. Furthermore, the educator should understand that knowledges and practices are unique within different Nations. Educators will likely find commonalities and differences of resource management in different First Nations. Educators should realize how TEK is cumulative knowledge meaning it is passed through generations, and knowledge/learning is a crucial part of land management and survival (FNESC, 2016, p. 44).  


Suggested Learning Activities

For the first possible activity, the educator could conduct a lesson around Indigenous TEK about the significance of berries, as well as the sustainability of berry plants for future generations. Participants could go on a nature walk into a local environment to study berry plants. They would learn how these plants are sustained through a Coast Salish perspective. After the nature walk, participants would then reflect on what they learned about Indigenous TEK regarding berries, connections to Coast Salish Peoples, and the importance of sustainability (FNESC, 2016). Guiding questions may include: What kind of berries do Coast Salish Peoples eat? How are they prepared and eaten? Why are berries important to Coast Salish Peoples? How do Coast Salish Peoples protect berry bushes, and why is this important?  


Another possible activity suggested in the First People’s Science book would be for participants to work in groups and research plant resource management strategies used by local First Nations. Once the research is complete, participants would create posters or videos to demonstrate their knowledge of Indigenous plant resource management. After presentations, participants would complete a personal reflection on how the plant resource management lesson assisted their understanding of Indigenous cultures.


Science First Peoples

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First Nations Education Steering Committee. (2016). Science First Peoples teacher resource guide: Grades 5-9. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/PUBLICATION-61496-Science-First-Peoples-2016-Full-F-WEB.pdf


First Nation Education Steering Committee. (2015). First Peoples principals of learning. http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PUB-LFP-POSTER-Principles-of-Learning-First-Peoples-poster-11×17.pdf


Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the truth and reconciliation commission of Canada. https://web.archive.org/web/20200430162813/http://www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf


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Indigenous Teaching Resources: Students Collection Copyright © 2022 by Kirsten Wirsz; Sarah Keane; and Vanessa Magtibay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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