Re­mote schools win STEM awards

The Australian Education Reporter - - NEWS - EMMA DAVIES

TWO of WA’S most re­mote pub­lic schools have won hon­ours at the 2017 Na­tional Indige­nous STEM Awards.

Run by CSIRO and the BHP Bil­li­ton Foun­da­tion, the awards recog­nise the achieve­ments of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der STEM stu­dents, as well as the role schools and teach­ers play in sup­port­ing Indige­nous stu­dents to pur­sue STEM ed­u­ca­tion and ca­reers.

Wiluna Re­mote Com­mu­nity School, on the edge of the Western Desert re­gion of WA, won an award for work­ing with lo­cal Martu Rangers and the com­mu­nity to use tra­di­tional knowl­edge for teach­ing sci­ence.

Teach­ers ap­ply an inquiry-based learn­ing ap­proach to meet the learn­ing, cul­tural and en­gage­ment strengths of their mostly Martu stu­dents and each term, there are weekly two-way sci­ence fo­cused walks, bush trips and camps.

The school has part­nered with a range of key stake­hold­ers in the area and also of­fers Cer­tifi­cate I and II in Con­ser­va­tion and Land Man­age­ment and Au­to­mo­tive for up­per sec­ondary stu­dents and Martu Rangers.

The school will re­ceive $10,000 to con­trib­ute to­wards pro­gress­ing inquiry-based learn­ing within the school and in­cor­po­rat­ing lo­cal Indige­nous knowl­edge that can be linked to the cur­ricu­lum.

Leonora Dis­trict High School in the Gold­fields-esperance re­gion took out two awards; teacher Fifi Harris won the STEM Champion

Award and stu­dent Boy­den Ge­orge took out

Stu­dent Sci­ence Award.

Ms Harris, an Abo­rig­i­nal and Is­lan­der ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer, re­ceived the award for her work in en­cour­ag­ing Indige­nous stu­dents to get in­volved in STEM.

She also runs the school’s Depart­ment for Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tions and At­trac­tions Bushranger pro­gram, which pro­vides en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties that con­nect stu­dents to the land.

Ms Harris pro­vides lead­er­ship at the school to in­te­grate stu­dent’s lo­cal lan­guage and cul­ture along­side Western sci­ence into school plans, teach­ing prac­tice and reg­u­lar com­mu­nity events.

Stu­dent Boy­den Ge­orge won his award af­ter he went to great lengths to pho­to­graph and sub­mit a spi­der for ver­i­fi­ca­tion by the Questagame bio­di­ver­sity pro­gram, where it was con­firmed as an un­de­scribed species.

CSIRO Indige­nous STEM Ed­u­ca­tion Project Di­rec­tor Therese Postma said it was im­por­tant to cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der peo­ple in STEM as well as teach­ers and schools work­ing in this space.

“All of our award win­ners in­spire Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der stu­dents,” Ms Postma said.

“Ed­u­ca­tors like Fifi Harris demon­strate on a daily ba­sis how Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der stu­dents can be ef­fec­tively en­gaged in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics.”

“Wiluna Re­mote Com­mu­nity School is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of an en­tire com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether to teach stu­dents two-way sci­ence in Indige­nous con­texts.”

Wiluna re­mote com­mu­nity school.

Stu­dent Sci­ence Award win­ner Boy­den Ge­orge.

Abo­rig­i­nal and Is­lan­der ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer Fifi Harris.

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