Including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in Science Education

We would like to recognize that the Welty Environmental Center is located on Ho-Chunk land. Specifically, the Ho-Chunk village of Xe Xe Tey. We acknowledge the Ho-Chunk and the indigenous communities who have stewarded this land through the generations and pay respect to their elders past and present.

Many may already know that November is Native American Heritage Month; however, UW-Madison is challenging Wisconsinites to take steps that go further than the typical land acknowledgment. They suggest we: 1) recognize current issues, 2) celebrate successes, and 3) commit to a better future. One of the ways in which we can recognize current issues is observing how wildlife are responding to climate change.

Native Americans have a deep connection with the natural resources they depend on for survival (e.g., hunting, fishing, foraging); therefore, they are directly affected by climate change based on how certain species respond to the changes. Snowshoe hare, for instance, depend on longer, colder winters, which are gradually getting warmer with less snow to camouflage their bright white winter coats. Walleye  depend on cold, murky waters that are getting warmer and clearer due to average annual increases in water temperatures. 

Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s vulnerability assessment chart.

[pullquote class=”right”]Learning this Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)…[/pullquote]While attending the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education (WAEE) conference in early November, I sat in on a workshop that discussed applications of climate education in classrooms. A resource that piqued my interest was the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, which showcases 11 organisms (plants, mammals, birds, insects, fish, and reptiles) and breaks down how various life history characteristics of these organisms either increase or decrease their vulnerability to climate change (see above).

[pullquote class=”left”]…is important for driving change, especially in how we interact with the environment![/pullquote]Learning this Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is important for driving change, especially in how we interact with the environment. There are many resources available to learn more about TEK and how it can be taught in our classrooms, regardless of age or subject. Here are some links to explore:

Do you have a favorite children’s book or teaching resource that incorporates TEK? Share with us!

Darien Becker
Environmental Educator, WEC