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A Review of Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know: Observation as the Basis for Science

Book Review

Every strawberry season, I begin to think of a Margaret Noodin poem called “Umpaowestewin”. The poem starts:


Ode’iminibaashkiminasiganke

She makes strawberry jam


ginagawinad wiishko’aanimad, waaseyaagami

mixing sweet wind and shining water


miinawaa gipagaa nibwaakaa,

with thick wisdom


The poem goes on, continuing to use the metaphor of strawberry jam for preserving the wisdom and language of the Anishinaabe, which Noodin specializes in for her career.


I love this poem, so, so, much. It is an example of the complex layers someone often overlooks by calling something like strawberry jam “simple”. It is written in the Anishinaabemowin, showing the active and necessary preservation of the language, similar to the preservation and further mid-winter enjoyment of jam. I love teaching this poem, as layers upon layers are revealed to students.


Image reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books


Recently, I came across a picture book that works similarly for children. It is called Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know (Groundwood Books) written by Brittany Luby and illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley.


The story, set in the Great Lakes, follows a young child through the seasons, and how she knows each season has arrived through the changes in the natural world around her. Every page is in English and Anishinaabemowin translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere.


This book is beautiful for many reasons, but here are a few reasons it stands out as something to encourage in science education:


1. The story has patterns for children that are easy to follow, and can easily be applied to a young reader’s lives, so they learn how to have a watchful eye.

Each season begins with the repeated phrase, “How do I know (insert season) is here?" And then the speaker answers with how she knows it is here. For example, for summer she says:


When Loon opens her red eyes

to call across the water,

and green Luna Moth hides

among birch leaves.


By reading this, you can encourage your children or students to observe and define the season by their own unique observations, not by what others tell them, which can set the basis for curious scientists of the future.

Image reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books


2. The story emphasizes cultural importance in tandem with the importance of the natural environment.


I have written about the interconnectedness of things that is so important to ocean literacy here, and think this book does the same. This story shows that the natural environment is deeply embedded in the language and culture of the Anishinaabe, and for that reason, both need to be taken care of. There is definitely an element of justice here, and what an important lesson for young readers to learn.


3. The story encourages young minds to start with the wonderful world that is out their back door.

It is so important for young minds to be curious about the “everyday". What happiness that brings, when one can be content and amazed by their surroundings. What beauty is found, when one can learn to protect their immediate surroundings.


Image reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books


The book uses the Great Lakes to illustrate Ocean Literacy Principle #5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems, and Principle #6: The ocean and humans are inextricably connected.


For Next Generation Science Standards, the book touches on many Earth Science Disciplinary Core Ideas, including: ESS2.D: Weather and Climate - Weather is the combination of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature in a particular region at a particular time. People measure these conditions to describe and record the weather and to notice patterns over time; and ESS3.A: Natural Resources - Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do. These Disciplinary Core Ideas have the corresponding Cross Cutting Concepts of Patterns and System Models.