Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Revising Making Observations: Striving for Equity, Inclusion, and Cultural Relevance

We’re pleased to reintroduce one of our flagship professional learning sessions, Making Observations. The BEETLES team has worked hard to improve the session and address issues that have arisen as we have presented the previous version over the years, and as our awareness has increased. As part of this work, we partnered with Annie Sorrell from the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment (the center founded and directed by Robin Wall Kimmerer) at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Annie and her cohort of graduate students supported us to integrate indigenous perspectives on science and connection to nature and the outdoors into the session. We intend to integrate their feedback into BEETLES approaches generally in the future. We are hugely grateful to Annie and her team for their critique, insights, and additions. We also revised this session to reflect previous feedback from Youth Outside and our deepened understanding of how BEETLES approaches can support equitable, inclusive, and culturally relevant learning experiences (to learn more about that process in more detail, see our previous blog post, Partnering to Develop Equitable, Inclusive, and Culturally Relevant Student Activities).  

Below are some examples of specific feedback and changes we incorporated.

Related to Traditional Ecological Knowledge, we:

  • Added language to acknowledge the existence and value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as a way of knowing and understanding nature.
  • Highlighted connections between a student and nature-centered science approach to making observations and Indigenous Ways of Knowing, while seeking to avoid cultural appropriation. 
  • Grounded sensory activities in an invitation to being in relationship with place.
  • Included a more nuanced set of perspectives on anthropomorphism: including research on the connection between empathy and observation, how anthropomorphism can sometimes get in the way of making observations, and an invitation for instructors to affirm students’ cultural perspectives as they encourage students to make thoughtful observations.

In addition, we:

  • Edited the quotes we reference throughout the session to represent a more diverse group of scientists, educators, and thinkers.
  • Added more explicit language to highlight how I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of can support an equitable and inclusive learning experience.
  • Shifted from “Tell/Explain” language to “invite/share/offer” language to honor the expertise and experience participants already have.
  • Removed “deficit-based” language that implies that learners don’t already have tools or strategies for learning, and added language that references building on learners’ existing skills and assets.

We’re excited about how the session has evolved, and we hope you will be, too! We encourage you to download the new session materials right now, so you’ll have the most up-to-date version at the ready the next time you facilitate the session or share it with a colleague.

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