Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 425–448 | Cite as

Relational epistemologies in land-based learning environments: reasoning about ecological systems and spatial indexing in motion

  • Priya Pugh
  • Megan McGinty
  • Megan BangEmail author
Original Paper


Social and cultural practices in learning settings are sites for leveraging and/or remediating sustainable and just conceptions of nature–culture relations to meet changing environmental demands of twenty-first century. In this study, we examine epistemic navigation among Indigenous youth in an outdoor, land based, STEAM (science, education, arts, math, and science) camp which not only leveraged nature-culture relations as part of critical engagement with socio-ecological systems, but also as a site for Indigenous resurgence and well-being in learning spaces. We take a microethnographic (Gee and Green in Rev Res Educ 23:119–169, 1998. approach to examine sense-making among three youth while engaged in a walking activity in which they were asked to embody a plant as part of cultural practices of reading the land. We found that the micro-practice of spatial indexing dynamically mediated sense-making about ecological systems as participants coordinated attention and observations between humans and more-than-human kinds. This form of sense making reflected both cultural and historical experiences, which students leveraged in their understandings of complex socio-ecological systems.


Land-based education Ecological education Spatial indexing Indigenous education 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning Sciences and Human Development, College of EducationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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