Where Are You From? Writing Toward Science Literacy by Connecting Culture, Person, and Place

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Articles and Special Issues
Seraphin, K. D. (2014). Where Are You From? Writing Toward Science Literacy by Connecting Culture, Person, and Place. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(1), 11-18. DOI: 10.5408/12-413.1
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The ways in which people view the world, and by extension the ways in which they learn, are shaped by cultural context. As educators striving to build scientific literacy among our students, it is critical to bridge the gaps among disparate cultures, traditional ways of knowing, and Western science. Understanding the value of traditional knowledge and welcoming the discourse and novel viewpoints associated with cultural and place-based practices is the first step in opening the door of scientific literacy not only for indigenous students but also for students struggling to find personal relevance in science. Sharing ideas and thoughts is a powerful force in aligning the wealth of knowledge in traditional settings with Western science. This paper discusses the utility of personal science writing as a tool for increasing science teaching effectiveness by connecting science learning with culture. Evidence from students’ writing has shown that a variety of techniques are effective in eliciting personal responses and creating personal connections to science learning. Students who participate in personal science writing activities report that they enjoy the products of their writing and benefit from written exchange with the teacher in an environment that is meaningful but not penalizing. Reflective science writings also chronicle content knowledge and bring out hidden misconceptions. In addition, writing provides a venue for students to improve their critical thinking skills and for teachers to gain a deeper, nuanced understanding of their students. 

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