Tag: indigenous knowledge

graphic recording STEM Tanmay Bakshhi keynote sam bradd

DisruptED supports STEM education

If you’re interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in education – there was something at the DisruptED conference for you. Organizers called DisruptED, “a mashing together of technology and education that shed new light on a vibrant, exciting emerging industry.”

Here’s the full program of speakers, and you can download all the images from DisruptED.

DisruptED used graphic recording to showcase new STEM ideas. And here’s my “aha” moment: I heard how STEM is becoming STEAM – where the “A” means Art. Why connect STEM to art? Because it’s a fun way to explain technology and science. Art could mean building a videogame to learn coding, or building models to learn engineering, or writing music based on math equations. I encourage students of all ages to use drawing skills to help them think through STEM problems. Drawing sketchnotes to study, making or reviewing graphic recordings is a perfect way to explain STEM and make it STEAM.

Here’s a sample of the keynotes:

disrupted-sidneyeve-matrix-webMy personal highlights included Sidneyeve Matrix (Queen’s School of Business Exec Ed Program) talking about trends in post secondary, and panelists sharing tools for Indigenous digital empowerment (including UMan’s famous ENGAP program).

graphic recording sam bradd technology and indigenous empowerment Wapaskwa school

Host and “tech evangelist” Marc Saltzman (it took me a moment to recognize his voice from Cineplex!) did a great job, and the UnConference helped all participants have the conversations they were dying to have. An UnConference uses “Open Space Technology” – a very simple way of organizing large numbers of people to have conversations that matter. 


A other few best practices stood out – an all-female panel and young people were on stage to share their perspectives as students, too.


Speaking of young people’s voices – check out this keynote by 13-year old coding genius Tanman Bakshi.


Thanks DisruptED for a fantastic event, and advancing STEM in Manitoba.


pacific herring social ecological system model

Infographic for Pacific Herring – a tiny and mighty fish

This one infographic asks 32 questions: the new Conceptual Model of the Herring Social-Ecological System. The Pacific Herring is a tiny, and mighty, fish. They’re ecologically and economically important for other species and commercial fisheries.

Pacific Herring: a Cultural Keystone Species

But as importantly, these fish are interdependent with Indigenous people on the Pacific Coast – they’re a cultural keystone species. Indigenous people have harvested herring for thousands of years. The last time I was in Haida Gwaii I ate spawn-on-kelp for the first time – truly a delicacy.

pacific herring social ecological system model

This visual supports new research, “Thirty two essential questions for understanding the social-ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring”, by authors Phillip S. Levin, Tessa B Francis and Nathan G. Taylor.pacific herring social ecological model  


The research project and infographic design was a collaboration. It combines content from a 3-day forum, traditional ecological knowledge, and group work. This participatory process began at the Pacific Herring Summit in 2015. Participants set collaborative priorities and engaged in group work to create a conceptual model linking social-ecological systems (SES).

Graphic recording at the Summit

I was also invited to the Pacific Herring Summit before I worked on this digital model. On day 1 of the Summit, I created live graphic recordings of the traditional ecological knowledge presentations (TEK) by Indigenous groups. Then after the event, I received summary information from the group work and my team began to design and refine the working model. You can see 4 more graphic recordings at this link here. 

OMF pacific herring forum traditional ecological knowledge research graphic recording

Participatory Research

I enjoyed reading this part of the article where it talks about the participants drawing a draft model. The drawings “evolved”, and improved because of the collaboration. Just like any good design, it takes more than one try to get it right! The authors write,

“The final conceptual model benefited from the participatory process in that it evolved over the course of a 3-d discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders, which ultimately influenced perspectives on the Herring SES. The conceptual models constructed on day 2 were far narrower in scope and viewpoint than the final synthetic model. For example, several groups’ conceptual models were strictly biologically and physically oriented: Herring sat in the middle (often represented by a drawing of a generic “fish”), and around Herring were other biological components of the ecosystem in great detail: predators, nutrient flow, plankton, different life stages of Herring. Other conceptual models took a more human-centric view of the system, comprised exclusively of the human beneficiaries of Herring and Herring activities and/or Herring-associated benefits. These models were organized around services such as money, spiritual connection, storytelling, nutrition, family, and future opportunities. One such model contained neither a picture of nor the word “Herring” anywhere in the model. In contrast, the final conceptual model gives equal weight to social/cultural, ecological, and economic nodes in the Herring SES, representing the diversity of perspectives contributing to the model.”

There are 32 fantastic questions in this article, and you can read it here:


graphic recording and visual facilitation pacific herring summit indigenous knowledge

Graphic recording supports science and traditional knowledge

Pacific Herring Summit Haida Presentation and opening

Graphic recording isn’t just about the images. It’s what you do with them that matters. 

The recent Pacific Herring Summitgraphic recording of indigenous knowledge on Day 1 supported a deeper understanding of the technical information that followed on Days 2 and 3.

These visualizations, started at the beginning of the conference, helped to literally hold space in the room for traditional knowledge throughout the gathering.  

Pacific Herring Summit Cowichan graphic recording

The Oceans Modeling Forum’s Summit brought together technical experts, policy makers, government and First Nations from California to Alaska to talk about the small and mighty Pacific Herring.

But ecosystem stats alone don’t tell the whole story. Its collapse has changed a way of life for people up and down the coast. The Summit was a moment to think differently about scientific knowledge.

The Summit centered human dimensions of the management of herring with traditional indigenous knowledge on Day 1. I was there to capture this part, visually.

OMF-Herring-Kitsasoo-Xaixais-WEB updated
What graphic recording did was to honor this wisdom. It made these teachings visual, and gave these perspectives a permanent – and prominent – place in the room. I created a 4×8 foot poster for each presentation, and hung these posters on the wall. On its own, graphic recording changes the space. The imagery often can bring a purposeful, fresh, or creative energy into the room. Simply put, the 6 images literally surrounded participants throughout the rest of the gathering. These visual stories were the counterpart to the presenters’ words and histories. The visuals are not better than, or more important – they are in service of the content, and became a tangible part of the room.

Pacific Herring Summit Heiltsuk graphic recording

There was powerpoint and data, but traditional indigenous knowledge provided for powerful and unforgettable moments of resilience and recognition.

We heard stories from the grandparents, tales about the land. We heard about when herring was so thick in the water it shone like silver, and the Heiltsuk Herring Song.

Graphic recording honored this wisdom. It made these teachings visual, and gave these perspectives a permanent – and prominent – place in the room.


OMF Herring Nuh-Chah-Nulth graphic recording


Simply put, the 6 images that were created literally surrounded participants throughout the rest of the gathering.

The visuals are not better than, or more important – they are in service of the content, and became a tangible part of the room. On its own, graphic recording changes the space by bringing purposeful, fresh, and creative energy into the room.

I would say that the graphic recordings became a re-framing tool for Days 2 and 3. I heard participants relate data back to the stories of land, culture and people who are directly affected, and center the human dimensions of herring.


Now a few months later, and I’ve worked on transforming the group work notes into a final illustration, and the prominence of human and cultural impact on herring in this model is still central.

Interestingly, this conference also changed how I draw oceans in my graphic recording work.

I live in Vancouver, BC on unceded Coast Salish territories, relatively close to the Pacific Ocean, and so I like to draw the familiar wide blue seas and expansive views. A few months after the conference, instead of choosing to draw an empty blue sea, I drew a close up small child collecting herring roe on cedar.

It was a small detail, but I thought of the Herring Song, and ocean acidification, and passing on knowledge to the next generations. The little herring helped me see how it’s all connected.