Science 7: Informed Decision-Making

Science 7: Informed Decision-Making

This lesson meets cross-curricular outcomes for Science 7 and Social Studies 7. Students will learn the contributions of Indigenous knowledge to decision-making about current events/issues in the Mackenzie River Basin, which is within the circumpolar region.



Students will learn the significant relationship between humans, the ecosystems of which they are part, and how traditional, local, and scientific knowledge is used to make informed decisions. This lesson shares several case studies made up of information, quotes, and photos from Elders, land users, community members, and researchers about an important environmental issue. 

The final component of the lesson introduces students to interviewing Elders or community members in relation to an environmental issue that matters to them. While learning outcomes may be met without the interview, we believe the interview is an important way for students to experience the vitality and necessity of intergenerational sharing of Indigenous knowledge of the land. Benefits also extend to the Elder or community member, who is enabled to pass on knowledge, culture, and language in relation to scientific learning.



The Mackenzie River Basin is spread out between the NWT, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC, and is an important part of many people’s lives. However, due to many human activities such as development, climate change, hydro damming, and others, there are many problems facing this important river basin. Managing or dealing with these issues is important in ensuring that the health of the river is protected and people’s livelihoods are supported. This lesson introduces students to the importance of using all knowledge available (traditional, local, and scientific) in making decisions about current and future problems.


Key questions for student inquiry: 

Why is including Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous perspectives important? How do both local knowledge and Western science contribute to decision-making about the environment?



In the classroom; interviews may take place inside or outside the classroom.


Length of activity:

1-2 classes for Parts 1& 2; 2-3 classes for Part 3

Teacher Resources


Materials Needed:

Connections to Curriculum


Unit A: Interactions and Ecosystems (Social and Environmental Emphasis)

Focusing Questions: How do human activities affect ecosystems? What methods can we use to observe and monitor changes in ecosystems, and assess the impacts of our actions?

  • Describe the relationships among knowledge, decisions and actions in maintaining life-supporting environments
    • illustrate, through examples, the limits of scientific and technological knowledge in making decisions about life-supporting environments (e.g., identify limits in scientific knowledge of the impact of changing land use on individual species; describe examples in which Aboriginal knowledge—based on long-term observation—provides an alternative source of understanding)
    • analyze a local environmental issue or problem based on evidence from a variety of sources, and identify possible actions and consequences (e.g., analyze a local issue on the control of the beaver population in a nearby wetland, and identify possible consequences)



This lesson explicitly addresses Indigenous Knowledge, a key focus of the social studies curriculum (Junior Secondary Social Studies Curriculum, 1993, p. 10), in order to address a key Social Studies 7 issue for inquiry: “How should circumpolar people resolve the conflict between resource development and environmental degradation?” (p. 20). 

Common learning experiences – Students will write a letter to express a point of view regarding a circumpolar issue.

Knowledge – Students will demonstrate knowledge of the following:

  • How the environment of the circumpolar regions affects peoples: their lifestyles, occupations, leisure and economic activities
  • How technological, societal, political, and economic changes have impacted traditional circumpolar societies

Skills – Students will be able to do the following:

    • Processing: acquire information to find answers through listening, observing, reading, and utilizing community resources
    • Processing: compare information about one topic from two or more sources to see if they are identical, similar, parallel or inconsistent, unrelated, or contradictory
  • Communication: read, listen and observe to acquire specific information
  • Participation: converse with others in a variety of settings, including informal small group and whole class discussions

Attitudes – Students will be encouraged to develop:

  • An appreciation of the need for cooperation in group work and community life
  • An appreciation for the consequences of people’s interactions with their physical and social environments
  • A sense of responsible stewardship over the northern environment

Northern Studies focus

  • Focus on Canada’s challenges and policies with regard to its northern peoples and territories. Also focus on the challenges facing northern aboriginal peoples: the preservation of culture, the pursuit of economic prosperity, the settlement of land claims, and the negotiation of self-government.