Presented by Dr Laura Barraza
Senior Lecturer, Deakin University
In this workshop I will present the pedagogical framework that was built around a comparative project in two different ecosystems with a similar social context: two Mexican Indigenous communities and one Eskimo Indigenous community in the north coast of Alaska. This educational experience focused on the relationships and making connections between people, their communities, their ideas and their environmental practices. The aims of this project were to provide potential young scientists from rural communities of Mexico and Alaska with a unique learning opportunity to think beyond their local knowledge in a more informed way; to introduce them to a variety of scientific approaches to environmental research; to provide them with practical training in qualitative and quantitative research methods; and to establish international links between young members of indigenous communities with responsibilities for maintaining environmentally sound development strategies. In addition, we aimed to foster a greater sense of appreciation in the young participants for the special qualities of their own communities. During eight weeks, students exercised their critical thinking when discussing environmental issues. We followed a constructivist approach and developed multiple pedagogical strategies (discussion groups, field trips, data collection, observations, school based classes, group and individual presentations, writing essays, among others). The project helped students not only to make cognitive links, between their scientific knowledge and their lived experiences, but also to establish affective and behavioral links in order to value their environment, their culture and traditions and become better citizens. Additionally, this will contribute to an improved knowledge of the dynamics of indigenous communities by understanding how the social structure develops and how the learning process evolved over a long-term basis while exploring the participatory relationships of youths in local projects.
Dr Laura Barraza holds a PhD in Environmental Education from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (1997). She is currently a full time Senior Lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She has been doing research in the field of science and environmental education since 1993, involving the school community from preschool to high school level in rural and urban contexts. Her research has focused on the analysis of environmental knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of students, teachers and parents in different regions of Mexico, England and Australia. These studies have considered the effect of the different educational systems in the teaching and learning process of Indigenous communities in Mexico and urban communities in England. Her current research focuses on Science education, perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge about the environment in different cultural settings; Socio scientific and sustainability issues, Traditional knowledge systems, Environmental Ethics and Contemporary Science Education. She has directed an education and research program with the participation of numerous professionals, and undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Barraza is a member of the National System of Researchers in Mexico (SNI), and in 2006 received a National Distinction award by Federal Government in the field of Conservation Education. She has also been very active producing a number of conference papers as well as papers and reports for the profession.