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Earth Alive!

Originally appears in the Fall 2009 issue

A mystical tale set in the Andes provides the backdrop for this creative activity that is designed to give students practice in critical thinking while studying ecosystems. The multicultural framework for Earth Alive! is particularly strong, as instead of attempting to incorporate the beliefs of non-Western cultures into Western science, the activity incorporates Western science into the beliefs of non-Western cultures. The results of this approach are a deepened understanding of ecosystems and non-Western belief systems, as well as an appreciation for how our concept of the environment affects our interaction with it. The activity has the added benefit that many non-Western students will feel comfortable with the exercise. In short, this exercise is a mind-stretcher and an eye-opener, without being difficult.

In Earth Alive!, students are provided with a handout that describes the traditional belief system of the exotic (and interesting!) Q’ero Indians, who are direct descendants of the Incas. The story is told of the Incan mountain gods, the Apus, whose flesh is the high-altitude slopes on which the Q’ero farm. The story sets the stage for small groups of students to develop their own ecosystem character or god, to be presented to the class in poster format.

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Judy Wearing is a science education consultant living in Newburgh, Ontario.