Exploring the Relationship between Stories from the Land and Character Development
Davis, Jennifer Elisabeth
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Abstract This research explores the relationship between stories from the land and character education, and examines how the land forms the characters of those who live with Her. Twenty-seven participants were chosen through the snowball, or chain sampling, method from three groups of people living roughly within the boundaries of Hastings County, Ontario. Three groups of people were included: those living on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory; generational farmers, whose families had settled in this area; and relative newcomers who have come to the area as recently as twenty years ago and self-identified as coming here in order to be closer to the land. Ages varied, with the youngest participant being 30 years old and the eldest being 94. Each participant was asked to share a story from his or her experience of living with the land in this area. During personal visits, stories were conveyed through conversations between the participant and the researcher, and recorded using both audio and video equipment. After transcription, the stories were coded for evidence of character development and reflected upon using three lenses: Noddings (2003) circles of caring; Haig-Brown’s (2010) ways through which the land teaches us; and the traditional Ojibway story of the Seven Grandfather Teachings. This reflection process was guided by the notion of close reading of the transcripts, close listening to audio recordings for voice inflection and laughter, and close watching of video recordings for body language. Findings from the research revealed rich connections between the stories and the three lenses used. Every aspect of character development was evidenced in one or more stories. The stories affirmed that, as the elders have traditionally taught, the land moulds people. Those who live in the same area develop character in similar ways. There was no substantial difference shown between the character traits evident in the stories given by Mohawk people and those from the other two groups. Character traits identified were reflective of the skills necessarily developed to live and work on this land. Implications for the development of character education curriculum emerged from the consideration of the use of locally based stories within classrooms.