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Making TRACKS with Indigenous Environment Studies/Science Summer Camps

Youth program seeks to introduce aboriginal cultural knowledge and environmental education at a younger age

Making TRACKS with Indigenous Environment Studies/Science Summer Camps
Making TRACKS with Indigenous Environment Studies/Science Summer Camps

The Trent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science Youth Program (TRACKS) offers children and youths the chance to explore the natural world from multiple perspectives, taking advantage of the expertise at Trent University’s Indigenous Environmental Studies (IES) department and from nearby Indigenous communities.

TRACKS, an outreach program under the umbrella of IES and the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC), is well underway with its third season of summer programming offered to young people in Indigenous communities and to local camp participants. Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and with support from TD Friends of the Environment, IES, and Baawating Community Fund, TRACKS offers a three-tiered program approach which includes in-school workshops, outreach events, and seven weeks of camp, both in local First Nations communities and at the Trent University campus in Peterborough.

TRACKS campers and volunteers get to experience a broad range of activities related to science and Indigenous knowledge systems, largely Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe. A typical day could include a visit to the woods to track down some forest friends, a trip to the lab to extract strawberry DNA and learn about its traditional role and teachings, and a canoe workshop that incorporates boat-building, learning about density and buoyancy, and exploring the two row wampum teachings. TRACKS integrates local Elders, scientists and knowledge-holders who learn alongside the youth and share some of their knowledge as it relates to science, cultural teachings, or the natural world. 

As an outreach arm of Indigenous Environmental Studies, TRACKS reflects the values of this program and seeks to introduce these ideas to youth at a younger age. IES and TRACKS strive to present environmental education and promote relationship-building through multiple perspectives, believing that problem-solving is better done when approached from a variety of methods and integrating many worldviews. To this end, science and traditional Indigenous knowledge systems are the lenses through which TRACKS explores topics such as nibi (water), sh’kode (fire), m’tigwaaki (forest) and mishiikenh (turtle).

Heathyr Francis, a Trent graduate with a degree in Biology and Anthropology, a B.Ed, and former MSc candidate, is back for her second season at camp as a senior science instructor. Working alongside fellow staff and Elders who carry traditional knowledge, Ms. Francis has been able to further develop her deep knowledge of Western science and outdoor education through her experience at TRACKS.

“TRACKS’ strengths are in the people that it pulls together and the experiences that we have and share together. Kids can be expect to have new experiences, both indoors and out and challenge their ways of thinking about the world around them,” Ms. Francis says. “I bring my understanding of science to the workshops and educational experiences, always hoping to trade some of my knowledge for other ways of knowing, looking at things from different ways that will lead to new experiences.”

Spaces are still available for next week’s Trent Camps based out of the tipi at the First Peoples’ House of Learning, Gzowski College. Session #2 is July 28 - August 1 for kids ages 12-15 and costs $175.

 Please visit TRACKS camp website for more information on any of TRACKS’ programs.

Posted on Friday, July 25, 2014.

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