responsive science curriculum attempts to integrate Native and Western
knowledge systems around science topics with goals of enhancing the cultural
well being and the science skills and knowledge of students. It assumes
that students come to school with a whole set of beliefs, skills and understandings
formed from their experiences in the world, and that the role of school
is not to ignore or replace prior understanding, but to recognize and
make connections to that understanding. It assumes that there are multiple
ways of viewing, structuring, and transmitting knowledge about the worldeach
with its own insights and limitations. It thus values both the rich knowledge
of Native Alaskan cultures and of Western science and regards them as
complementary to one another in mutually beneficial ways.
What are the characteristics of culturally responsive science curricula?
- It begins
with topics of cultural significance and involves local experts.
- It links
science instruction to locally identified topics and to science standards.
- It devotes
substantial blocks of time and provides ample opportunity for students
to develop a deeper understanding of culturally significant knowledge
linked to science.
- It incorporates
teaching practices that are both compatible with the cultural context,
and focus on student understanding and use of knowledge and skills.
- It engages
in ongoing authentic assessment which subtly guides instruction and
taps deeper cultural and scientific understanding, reasoning and skill
development tied to standards.
What are some strengths of culturally responsive curriculum?
- It recognizes
and validates what children currently know and builds upon that knowledge
toward more disciplined and sophisticated understanding from both indigenous
and Western perspectives.
- It taps
the often unrecognized expertise of local people and links their contemporary
observations to a vast historical database gained from living on the
- It provides
for rich inquiry into different knowledge systems and fosters collaboration,
mutual understanding and respect.
- It creates
a strong connection between what students experience in school and their
lives out of school.
- It can
address content standards from multiple disciplines.
What are some difficulties associated with culturally responsive curriculum?
knowledge may not be readily available to or understood by teachers.
experts may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable or hesitant to work within
the school setting.
science texts may be of little assistance in generating locally relevant
or community support for design and implementation may be lacking.
- It takes
time and commitment.