The Birch Bark Canoe: Navigating a New World

Randy Herrmann & Pauline Broderick, Canada, ID LLCE2016-324;        The Indigenous people of Canada have been colonized for over 500 years. In the past their culture and ways of knowing have been severely curtailed by their oppressors. Their ceremonies were outlawed and their children were taken from their families to be taught at residential (boarding) schools. Multiple generations of this type of treatment have left a once proud and self-determined people floundering in current Canadian culture. Educational outcomes among their youth are lower than the Canadian average, their ability to find work is also impacted resulting in many families being impoverished.

To this end the presenter and his group have developed a DVD and curriculum guide, “The Birch Bark Canoe, Navigating a New World,” that looks at math and science from an Indigenous perspective utilizing one of their most recognizable contributions to Canadian culture. Not only is the DVD and booklet about the birch bark canoe, a cultural artifact, the design of the curriculum guide is modeled after an Indigenous cultural idea, the Medicine Wheel.

The project was undertaken in order to persuade young Indigenous students into considering science, technology, engineering, and math careers. To date the booklet and DVD have been well received by teachers across Canada. Over 2000 booklets have been distributed.

The session will preview the DVD and discuss the development of this project.