Traditional knowledge can be defined as a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment. Further, traditional knowledge is an attribute of societies with historical continuity in resource use practices; by and large, these are non-industrial or less technologically advanced societies, many of them indigenous or tribal (Berkes 1993).
Importance of Traditional Knowledge
In the past, western scientists typically rejected the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples as anecdotal and unscientific. Today, the scientific importance of traditional knowledge is more commonly recognized by those carrying out research in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples. Educators recognize the importance of using traditional knowledge in the classroom because it gives added depth and meaning to scientific concepts. Science taught in conjunction with local traditional knowledge brings not only a sense of place but also helps to make science less foreign to students.
ARM Education and Outreach's Role
ARM Education and Outreach has been on the forefront of integrating traditional knowledge into science education curricula for students, educators, and community at each of the ARM sites. Working closely with these communities has revealed that a key element in developing effective curricula is to incorporate traditional knowledge of the local environment. At the request of the ARM host communities, the Education and Outreach program has developed interactive, computer-based kiosks that present scientific information about atmospheric science and global climate change as well as indigenous perspectives on the socioeconomic impacts of a changing climate. Taking into consideration the diversity which exists within the host communities, the Education and Outreach program also translated the contents of the kiosks so that they can be heard in English and the local language of each specific region. This also supports the culture and language preservation efforts of each community.
The Education and Outreach program has used this concept to research climate change in the following two locations: