Trent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science Initiative
Contact TRACKS: 1-705-748-1011 ext 6381
Generously funded through an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and the TD Friends of the Environment Fund, TRACKS (TRent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science) is a youth outreach program run through Trent University in association with the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program (IES) and the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC). TRACKS offers classroom and after-school workshops, outreach programming and summer camp experiences for kids ages 8-15 with a focus on weaving Indigenous cultural knowledge with math and science curriculum.
Making TRACKS with Indigenous Environment Studies/Science Summer Camps!
Like the big kids in the IES program, we think that by looking through different lenses, we’ll be able to see the world from a broader perspective and pack more tools into our problem-solving backpacks. We also believe that concepts we’re exploring at a university level might be better understood by younger people who haven’t yet had the time to get so stuck on one way of knowing. So far, our experiments seem to be reaping great benefits!
TRACKS campers get to experience a broad range of activities related to science and Indigenous knowledge systems, largely Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe. We do our best not to compartmentalize these ways of knowing but rather to integrate multiple perspectives as they explore a topic, and encourage our campers to make connections between the different activities we do.
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. We might round off our day with creating our very own beaded two-row bracelets and if we’re lucky, be joined by an Elder or scientist who can learn alongside us and share some of their knowledge.
As you can tell we’re pretty excited about our youth program! We’re so new and still learning lots. While it’s hard to ascertain how much of the knowledge weaving the kids are understanding, we know they feel good about their experiences with relationship-building and participating in culturally relevant curriculum that makes science less of a mystery. We have a stellar team of instructors and additional support staff including a former instructor turned grant-writer, Hanah McFarlane, and a fantastic evaluator, Carly Armstrong of the Indigenous Studies PhD program, who is helping us meet program goals and figure out what kids are taking home with them.
So far this summer, TRACKS has honed our skills through in-school workshops, reached tons of kids with hands-on activities and demonstrations at several powwows and Water festivals, built a lot of cool new curriculum, and participated in an awesome staff retreat with IES Program Director, Dan Longboat, in western Quebec. Recently, we completed two full summer camps with community partner, Hiawatha First Nation, and a new collaborator, Wahnapitae First Nation.
TRACKS wants to work with kids in a whole new way and could be a bright new star in your knowledge constellation. We are always looking for more people to get involved and would love to have you on board. Volunteer opportunities for the summer are available, and if you are a scientist, a traditional knowledge holder, or want to share any other skills you have with a great bunch of kids, get in touch! We are also on Facebook as /Tracks Staff and /TRACKS Youth Program.
The idea for TRACKS was born out of the Indigenous Environmental Studies/Sciences program at Trent, and the recognition that a greater impact could be achieved if programming was available to Indigenous youth at a younger age. With this idea, staff and students from the IES program were brought on board to begin development. The current TRACKS Advisors who provide direction and experience for the organization of the TRACKS concept and its curriculum and program development, include Professor Dan Longboat - Indigenous Studies Dept. and Professor Chris Furgal - Environmental Science/Studies Dept., and Brigitte Evering – PhD Candidate Indigenous Studies Program.
The program is further supported by a Steering Collective of representatives from partners including the communities of Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Scugog First Nations, and the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre in Peterborough. The program also takes directions from staff and volunteers, elders and knowledge holders, scientists, Trent University IES students, and representatives from other community organizations.