Teaching from the Indigenous Perspective and Promoting the Respect of Native Lands, Natural Resources, and Native Cultures
The use of traditional ecological knowledge with Native students has been shown to increase the engagement, participation, and success of Native American students in science, ultimately opening opportunities for Native students in science-related careers, where currently, they are significantly under-represented. Abby Ybarra and Project Indigenous currently work with schools and students to re-design their outdoor learning space to include such things as native grasses, wildflowers and other plants that serve ecological, sustenance and/or medicinal purposes and agro-ecology projects such as Three Sisters Gardens that demonstrate the TEK within agricultural practices of Indigenous People.
Through his Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, Abby implemented Growing through Heritage to work with tribal representatives and elders of the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation to provide access to the traditional ecological knowledge, permissions, and wisdom that might guide this project. Abby worked with the Three Sisters Garden and the Prairie Band Potawomi School to repurpose their yard as an outdoor space. Through this work, they taught the children to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the land, especially the plants around them.
In the long term, Abby hopes that the lessons learned from this project will enable him to expand it to other schools. Engaging students in traditional Native ways of connecting to the land creates a deeper and more enduring relationship with the natural world that will ultimately have benefits to both children and the environment.