Many urgent environmental challenges, from soil degradation and water pollution to global climate change, have deep roots in how complex systems impact human well-being, and how humans relate to nature and to each other. Learning In and From the Environment through Multiple Ways of Knowing (LIFEways) is based on the premise that Indigenous stewardship has sustained communities on these lands since time immemorial. This project is collaboratively led by the Indigenous Education Institute and Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center, in partnership with Native Pathways and the Reimagine Research Group, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, World Forestry Center, and a national park network in the Pacific Northwest. The aim of this partnership is to deepen the informal learning field’s understanding of how Indigenous ways of knowing are currently or can be included in outdoor learning environments such as parks, nature preserves, and tribal lands. The project will share practices that center Indigenous worldviews to build awareness of their value and enhance STEM learning in outdoor settings. These approaches engage Native community members in continuing their traditional knowledge and practices, and help non-Native audiences learn from the dynamic interrelationships of the environment in authentic, respectful ways.
Conventional outdoor education is mostly grounded in Western concepts of “conservation” and “preservation” that position humans as acting separately from nature. This Research in Service to Practice project will identify “wise practices” that honor Indigenous ways of knowing, and investigate current capacities, barriers and opportunities for amplifying Indigenous voices in outdoor education. A team of Native and non-Native researchers and practitioners will draw upon Indigenous and Western research paradigms. Methods include Talk Story dialogues, a landscape study using national surveys, case studies, and a Circle of Relations to interpret and disseminate research findings. LIFEways will also document partnership processes to continue to build on the Collaboration with Integrity framework between tribal and non-tribal organizations (Maryboy and Begay, 2012). Findings from the LIFEways project will be shared broadly through a series of webinars, local and national meetings, conferences, and publications.
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