Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum


What is Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum?


Culturally 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 world—each 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 land.
  • 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?

  • Cultural knowledge may not be readily available to or understood by teachers.
  • Cultural experts may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable or hesitant to work within the school setting.
  • Standard science texts may be of little assistance in generating locally relevant activities.
  • Administrative or community support for design and implementation may be lacking.
  • It takes time and commitment.

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