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Maple League Funding Spotlight – Indigenous STEAM: Experiential and Land-Based Learning Course

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Course Professor: Dr. Jesse Popp (Mount Allison) Knowledge Holder and Guest Instructor: Nicole Dubé (Fort Folly First Nation) Elder and Guest Instructor: Dr. Andrea Colfer (Elsipogtog First Nation)

In early September 2019 at a series of town halls, the Maple League launched four new funding opportunities to promote and facilitate collaborative research, innovative teaching, spring and international field study programs, and travel amongst our four campuses. We are delighted to share, in a series called the Maple League Funding Spotlight, the funded projects for 2019 – 2020.

We had a chance to sit down with Dr. Jesse Popp from Mount Allison University to talk about her project and learn more about collaboration across the four universities.

JESSICA RIDDELL (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE MAPLE LEAGUE): The guiding question that animates all our Maple League collaborations is: “What can we do together that we cannot do on our own?” How does this resonate with the project you’ve undertaken?

JESSE POPP, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY): Working together with Elders and Knowledge Holders in Miꞌkmaꞌki, we intend to enhance the ability of universities within the Maple League to offer students exceptional lands-based experiential learning opportunities in the spirit of reconciliation. We propose to develop and deliver a pilot Indigenous environmental science/Indigenous studies course to be implemented through Mount Allison University, but also available to Maple League undergraduate students.

JR: Maple League universities endeavor to individualize undergraduate education with a holistic approach to learning within the classroom and beyond. How does your work benefit from working and learning in relationship-rich environments?

JP: The entire course will be highly experiential, immersing students in Indigenous science, technology, engineering, art, and math on the land. Students will visit several First Nation communities in NB and will learn from Elders and Knowledge Holders in Mi’kma’ki. The goals of this project are to provide exceptional experiential and land-based learning experiences to students, foster relationships among universities and among universities and First Nations, and to support reconciliation.

JR: What kind of impact do you hope to have – on your own work, on institutional cultures, or beyond the academy – with your project?

JP: Bringing together multiple ways of knowing in all disciplines is an important means to understanding the world while supporting reconciliation in Canada. Employers across the country are seeking individuals with knowledge and experience of Indigenous culture and ways of knowing. Few Canadians have ever set foot in Indigenous communities, which is a problem that needs to be addressed (Hutchins 2018). Universities equip students with the skills needed to meet employer demands. This course will provide extraordinary interdisciplinary experiences on the land, and in First Nation communities, building relationship and skills that will create highly marketable students.

Reference: Hutchins, A. (2018). Few Canadians ever set foot on a First Nations reserve, and that’s a problem. Macleans.

JR: Can you share any advice to others who might be interested in collaborating across institutions?

JP: Collaborations, especially with interdisciplinary teams that prioritize diversity and inclusion, can result in the development of very unique experiences and can lead to a greater understanding of the world through multiple lenses, ways of knowing, or perspectives.

Interested in learning more? Here is a brief description of the project:

This course, Indigenous STEAM: Experiential and Land-Based Learning, will immerse students in Indigenous culture, ways of knowing, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and contributions to science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). Lessons will focus primarily on Mi’kmaq culture. The course will emphasize the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land. This 7-day experience will take place in a variety of locations in Miꞌkmaꞌki, including, but not limited to, Fort Folly and Elsipogtog First Nations. Lessons will be implemented through storytelling, knowledge sharing, lectures, observations, and ceremony. Students will provide daily reflections in a journal and will chose one topic discussed or experienced throughout the duration of the week to research further throughout the fall. The course will culminate in a fall seminar where students will present their final reports.

Contact us:

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Jesse Popp at

For more information on funding opportunities, visit:

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