The Art of Teaching Science weblog and book has, as its underlying philosophy, a humanistic paradigm promoting an active and lived learning experience for classroom learning. I have been traveling in the West recently, and was fortunate to visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There in the museum bookstore I found a copy of Gregory Cajete’s Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence.
My own view is that Native science, as explored and presented by Dr. Cajete, is a paradigm that offers science educators a robust, and experiential way to engage their students in the learning and exploration of science. In this blog, I have described this as the humanistic science paradigm, which you read more about here. It’s the ideas in Native science that I wish to talk briefly about here, and suggest that Cajete’s ideas should be a part of the movement recently to develop a new generation of science standards.
According to Cajete, “Native science is a metaphor for a wide range of tribal processes of perceiving, thinking, acting and ‘coming to know’ that have evolved through human experience with the natural world.” He emphasizes the notion that Native science is based on using the entire body of our senses in direct participation with the world. It is this notion of direct participation that fundamental to a humanistic paradigm, and as Cajete points out, forms the foundation of the Native science paradigm.
Native science is holistic. Although Cajete points out that Native science includes such areas as astronomy, farming, plant domestication, plant medicine, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, metallurgy, and geology, Native science goes further and extends these fields by including spirituality, community, creativity, and technologies that sustain and support environments of human life.
Dr. Cajete also observes that both scientists and non-scientists question whether there is such a thing as Indigenous science. Many argue that science is really a Western idea, and that Indigenous science knowledge is really not science. But, there are many that argue that Native science is indeed science. Cajete informs us that Native science can not be isolated from cultured, and that when one is speaking about Indigenous or Native science, “one is really talking about the entire edifice of Indigenous knowledge.
According to Cajete, Native science is very much like the Western science that is called environmental science or ecology. He points out that Native people don’t have words for environmental science or ecology, they understand the relationship that profoundly connect them to the natural world—which is indeed the purview of environmental science and ecology.Tags: Gregory Cajete, Native Science