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McGill Faculties of Education and Medicine plan Indigenous Science Futures initiative for youth

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Published: 29Apr2016

As part of the opening discussions regarding a new Indigenous educational initiative called Indigenous Science Futures, representatives from McGill's Faculties of Education and Medicine met this week with First Nations and Inuit educators and Indigenous partners of the McGill RUIS (Réseau Universitaire Intégré de Santé).

The two-day workshop asked participants to imagine how an Indigenous Summer Science Institute could be organized and sustained, with the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous healthcare professionals to work within First Nations and Inuit communities.

Contributors from McGill's academic ranks included Professor Elizabeth Wood, Associate Dean of Academic Programs with the Faculty of Education; Professor Steven Jordan, Chair of the Department of Integrated Studies in Education; Jim Howden, Director of the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education; Drs. Saylor and Menzies, co-chairs of the Faculty of Medicine's Indigenous Healthcare Professional Training initiative (IHPT); Dean of Education Dr. Dilson Rassier; and Dean of Medicine Dr. David Eidelman.

For nearly 50 years the Faculty of Education has worked diligently to offer courses that are reflective of their partner communities' needs. Launched in 2015, the broader initiative Science Futures aims to provide multi-pronged and sustained support for science education in local schools. Indigenous Science Futures is conceived as a focused initiative within Science Futures, aimed at developing Indigenous science pedagogy with youth from Inuit, Mohawk, Cree, Naskapi, Algonquin, and Mi'gmaq communities.

"Our goal is to support the science foundations of Indigenous learners by developing and implementing a curriculum that is grounded in Indigenous values," explained Elizabeth Wood, Associate Dean of Academic Programs with McGill's Faculty of Education.

Topics discussed included the integration of Western scientific doctrine with Indigenous methodologies and ways of knowing. Participants spoke about "Two-Eyed Seeing", a concept developed by Mi'gmaq Elder Albert Marshall and defined as "learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous ways of knowing... and from the other eye with the strengths of Western ways of knowing.... and learning to use both of these eyes together, for the benefit of all."

A thematic approach was discussed, including the potential use of creation stories, land-based practices, spirituality, and traditional medicines. Participants discussed how to ensure continuity of efforts (i.e. mentorship, tutoring and shadowing experience) so that youth who attend could continue to have support in their academic careers during the program and school year.

The two-day workshop functioned as an important building block in this collaborative process. Representatives of McGill University will continue to discuss the initiative with their community partners in subsequent meetings.

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