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MSIT: Transdisciplinary, Cross-cultural Science

Ray Cromie2

Originally appears in the Fall 2009 issue

The theme “Birds” is a productive avenue for exploring many questions that can be incorporated into presentations, outdoor activities and laboratory exercises. Birds have a cultural significance and a strong presence in many legends of the Mi’kmaq and other Aboriginal peoples, and serve as a link between the present interests of students and the past interests of their ancestors. In observing birds, students observe their surroundings and arrive at a more holistic understanding of their environment. Birds are also of interest to many parents and grandparents, and this encourages students to share stories and information with family and community members.

Here we outline the basics of a question-based approach to the theme “Birds” for high school students. It is adapted from the MSIT curriculum in the Community Studies in Integrative Science program at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia. MSIT is a Mi’kmaq word meaning “everything together,” and the MSIT curriculum employs the “Two-Eyed Seeing” approach of integrating Western and Aboriginal world views. The classroom mirrors the world outside the window, and practical engagement with that world is an integral part of the curriculum. Indigenous science concepts, such as the interrelatedness of all things, are examined in the context of natural cycles at all time and space scales.

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Annamarie Hatcher is a Senior Research Associate in the Institute for Integrative Science and Health at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Cheryl Bartlett is a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science and Professor of Biology at Cape Breton University.