Chapter 6: It Matters How You Frame The Story

THIS CHAPTER LAYS OUT THREE FRAMES FOR TEACHING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE: (1) telling a human story, (2) connecting humans to the environment and the chain of life that affects us all, and (3) pushing toward explanations that integrate science with social justice. These are intended to foster generative points of view and challenge less critical perspectives that render invisible the experiences of already marginalized communities. Productive framing is also about working with the many assets that students bring to class—their existing knowledge and values from previous instruction, friends, family, and neighbors. These frames make clear whose ways of knowing and histories have been suppressed, and at what cost.

Indigenous worldviews and sciences

Much of this chapter deals with Indigenous knowledge and sciences, however it is crucial for us as educators and for our students to understand the colonial histories that have threatened Indigenous people’s connections to the land, their lives, families and ways of being. This requires ongoing reading, but I can offer a few resources that supported by understanding.

In the essay If Indigenous Peoples Stand with the Sciences, Will Scientists Stand with Us? Megan Bang, Amanda Marin & Douglas Medin write that “Indigenous sciences are foundationally based in relationships, reciprocity, and responsibilities.” They argue that, with respect to the more-than-human world, scientists engaging in relational epistemologies will

  1. view humans as a part of the natural world, rather than apart from it
  2. attend to and value the interdependencies that compose the natural world
  3. attend to the roles actors play in expanded notions of ecosystems from assumptions of contribution and purpose, rather than as- sumptions of competition
  4. focus on whole organisms and systems at the macroscopic level of human perception (also a signature of complex-systems theory)
  5. see all life forms as agentic, having personhood and communicative capacity (as distinct from anthropocentrism)
  6. adopt multiple perspectives, including interspecies perspectives, in thought and action; and
  7. weigh the impacts and responsibilities of knowledge toward action.

Robin Wall Kimmerer adds to the theme above in the article Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Biological Education: A Call to Action. She also has written a version of her best-seller, Braiding Sweetgrass, for young adults. For a preview of what is in it, here’s a discussion guide.

The resources above help us understand Indigenous knowledge and sciences, but they also lay out some of the history of colonization and its ongoing impact, not just in North America, but around the world. In White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization, Kyle Powys Whyte speaks to those of us who want to include these histories and build a critical recognition of their impacts into our curriculum. We all need to gain a critical perspective on what we are trying to do and why.

Worldviews are very much a part of how we treat the environment and those around us. A worldview is a collection of attitudes, values, stories and expectations about the world around us, which inform our every thought and action. In their book, aimed at social studies teachers, James Damico and Mark Baildon explain how educators might introduce the idea of worldviews, in the form of “Eco-justice Stories To Live By.”

Part of an eco-centric worldview is to expand Western or modern science perspectives of what is alive, what has agency. Sometimes we can share with students the benefits of treating the land, air, water, sun as alive. Sometimes these insights can be helped along by art or other aesthetic representations. Below is one image from Dan Coe Carto’s work. Is it a blood vessel? No, it’s a meaner scar of a river, captured with Lidar. Check more of his astounding work here.

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