Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Towards a Pedagogy of Land: The Urban Context

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Towards a Pedagogy of Land: The Urban Context

Article excerpt

Towards a Pedagogy of Land: The Urban Context

"When we know our own engaging and difficult history as a nation ... we can begin to create public places, in all parts of our cities, to mourn and to celebrate who we really are" (Hayden, 1997, p. 238)

Starting from Land

In this article, we ponder the possibilities when shifting what we have come to call a pedagogy of Land from a northern rural context to southern urban contexts. The impetus for the article arises from one of the author's exploration of a pedagogy of Land in a practicum teaching experience in a Bachelor of Education Primary/Junior (Aboriginal) program offered through Brock University in the Northern Nishnawbe Aski Territory. (Styres, 2011). Her work examines "the concepts of storying, journeying, and circle epistemology as a central model for meaning-making; the development of land-centred course content and activities; as well as issues around language use" (p. 717) in relation to the ways pedagogy of Land can be embodied and enacted in rural communities and classrooms. Styres asserts that, "land as first teacher can be easily adapted to any geographical space because it is land in all of its abstract and concrete fluidity and shifting realities that informs pedagogy" (p. 728). In this article we explore what it means to bring a pedagogy of Land into classrooms and communities in urban settings as well as the various aspects of a pedagogy of Land that can translate appropriately from rural to urban contexts. We also examine some approaches/stories that contribute to this work proceeding in meaningful and relevant ways. We also share some of our efforts to allow Land to inform both pedagogy and praxis in teacher education, always with our eyes on success for students, particularly Aboriginal (i) students, in schools.

Let's begin with some terms. For our purposes, Land encompasses all water, earth, and air and is seen simultaneously to be an animate and spiritual being constantly in flux. It refers not only to geographic places and our relationships with urban Aboriginal landscapes but also gestures to the ways that discourses within places inform and are informed by our vision, pedagogies, and teaching practices. Discourse, within the context of this work, refers to various conversations, patterns of thought, and meaning-making of individuals who inhabit those spaces. Building on the work of Zinga and Styres (2012), we capitalize and italicize Land to emphasize the complexity of our use of the concept. A pedagogy of Land draws on "the interconnectedness and interdependency of relationships, an understanding of cultural positioning, as well as subjectivities that extend beyond the borderlands of traditional mainstream conceptualizations of pedagogy" (Styres, 2011, p. 722). These relationships are not limited to rural spaces when they are called to consciousness; rather through giving our attention to the land wherever our work is done, they inform all of what we do in the name of education. Drawing upon that understanding we briefly address some distinctions between our pedagogy of Land and what is generally understood to be place-based education.

Not Just a Pedagogy of Place

We want to be clear that, in our work, we are not talking simply about a pedagogy of place or place-based education. While we take seriously the materiality of land, a pedagogy of Land refers also to the spiritual, emotional and intellectual aspects of Land. Land as sentient. Its existence now and since time immemorial. Its history. Land is a living thing. A river is a living thing. The air is alive.

While dominant Western (ii) understandings of place-based education focus in on local contexts, it has not historically had a specific connection to Indigenous knowledge or necessarily to the material geography, i.e. land (without italics), in which the education is taking place. Its focus is on problems arising in a community or neighbourhood or town which may or may not involve the "natural" environment and often does not recognize or acknowledge the relationships Indigenous peoples have to their lands since time immemorial, nor does it take into account Land as a living fundamental being. …

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