Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities

Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities targets primary and middle school students in remote Indigenous communities and uses on-country projects as the context for learning science linked to Indigenous ecological knowledge.

Science Pathways works with project schools to develop education plans and projects on topics integrating Western science and Indigenous ecological knowledge. Bush trips with community elders, rangers and others are a focus of these plans. These trips are usually to country of local cultural significance and vary from a couple of hours to two- to three-day camps.

Warralong Fish Monitoring Project - Examining fish anatomy with a digital microscope.

Science Pathways builds on students' knowledge about country and links this to Western science. The program supports Indigenous teachers and assistant teachers to deliver Indigenous language & culture programs in schools. The involvement of Indigenous elders is vital for strong school-community partnerships and for the passing on of Indigenous ecological knowledge.

Students, for example, learn about the cultural significance of particular sites and the past and current management of theses sites by Indigenous people; learn traditional uses for plants and collect specimens of these plants to describe and label; identify tracks and other animal signs to survey the animals in different habitats; trap small mammals and reptiles with the help of local Indigenous rangers; and collect invertebrates and other aquatic fauna to monitor the water quality in waterholes affected by feral animals.

Warralong Fish Monitoring Project - Girls at Red Rock.

Bush trips provide a meaningful and practical focus for literacy and numeracy activities as well as effective teaching and learning strategies for English as a second language students. Back in the classroom, experiences from country visits are used as the basis for reading and writing activities, in English and Indigenous languages. Student engagement is high because of the relevance of the context.

The following video was made as part of the Science Pathways project with students from Wiluna Remote Community School during a rockhole survey on Matuwa Kurrara Kurrara Indigenous Protected area (MKK IPA).

Pantaljarra Namuru Rockhole Monitoring

Show transcript

Pantaljarra Namuru

[Image appears of Pantaljarra Namaru on the left hand side of the screen and atree on the right hand side of the screen and text appears: Pantaljarra Namaru, This rock hole we gotta look after it.  Animals like the kangaroo or the camel might get into it and make it bad for drinking]

Female 1: Pantaljarra Namuru

[Martu Word 0:05] Pantaljarra rock hole look after [Martu Words being spoken 00:11]

[Image changes to show four photographs of the rock hole being dug out, a young person’s head poking out of the rock hole, a young person in the rock hole and a young person digging the rock hole and text appears: The kids are cleaning out the rock hole for the animals to come and have a drink in the clean water next time the rain comes]

Female 1: [Martu word] kids [Martu word] clean. [Martu words] rockhole [Martu words] so next time the [Martu words] they can fill up and they can [00:31 Martu words] they can [Martu word] to drink, birds and all, everything can come there, yeah.

Male 1: We were cleaning out the water holes so when rain comes along there’ll be water for the native species to drink out of.

[Image changes to show four photographs of a rock, a beetle, a kangaroo and a track in the sand and text appears: Nyaapa nyangu, What did we see? Rockhole survey, tracks and scats, water bug survey, camera traps]

Feale 1: Nyaapa nyangu

[Image changes to show three photographs showing an animal dropping, emu tracks in the sand and an emu with chicks and text appears: Karlaya, Emu, Father emu taking the little chicks looking for water]

Male 2 That’s a emu goona and the emu we call it a Karlaya.

Daddy Karlaya [Martu words being spoken 01:13]

[Image changes to show three photographs of a kangaroo, a kangaroo’s droppings and kangaroo tracks in the sand and text appears: Marlu, Kangaroo]

That’s the kangaroo and the Martu name for kangaroo is the Marlu and that’s goona, kangaroo goona.  You can see where he’s been crawling around.

[Image changes to show four photographs of dingo droppings, tracks in the sand and an adult dingo next to the water hole and text appears: Baba Ngupanu, Dingo]

That’s a dingo, dingo goona and it’s been scratching around there because you know that’s a dingo and we call that a Baba.

Female 2: We call it a dingo in another word is Ngupanu.

[Image changes to show two photographs of a kangaroo and a hopping mouse burrow and text appears: Pikurda, Hill kangaroo, Hopping mouse burrow]

Male 2: Pikurda.  That’s a mouse, a hopping mouse and that’s the burrow.

[Image changes to show two photographs of pigeons around the waterhole and text appears: Kirrki, This bird is a chicken hawk, the pigeons are there for the water]

Female 1: [Martu words] That’s a Kirrki. [Martu words spoken 02:22] pigeon [Martu word].

[Image changes to show two photographs of crows around the water hole and a wedge tailed eagle taking off into flight from the water hole and text appears: Karnka, crow, Warlawurru, wedge tailed eagle]

 Male: Three

Children: Karnka.

Child: Warlawurru.

[Giggling sounds can be heard]

[Image changes to show two photographs of a flock of galahs at the waterhole and a bower bird at the waterhole and text appears: Piyarrku, pink and grey galah, Jarralji, bower bird]

Female: Piyarrku

Female 1: Jarralji

[Image changes to show two photographs of budgerigars at the waterhole and a magpie at the waterhole and text appears: Budgerigar, Kurrparu, magpie]


[Image changes to show a photograph of a barn owl and the waterhole and text appears: Barn owl]

[Image changes to show four photographs of water samples being taken from the water hole, the sample being looked at with a magnifying glass, people looking at the water sample in a tray, a female syringing up a sample of water and text appears: Water bug survey]

[Image changes to show five photographs of a water beetle, a seed shrimp, a close up of a backswimmer and two other backswimmers and text appears: Water beetle, Seed shrimp, Backswimmer (close up), Backswimmers]

Male 2: We did a water bug survey and we found five different species of water bug.

[Image changes to show three photographs of a teacher and two children, a sample of water bugs under a light and a paper chart showing the types of species found]

[Image changes to show a photograph of a grindstone and text appears: Yapu, Grindstone]

Female 1: While we were sitting [Martu words 03:23] [Martu words 03:28] Yapu but no Jiwa only just a Yapu where you [Martu words], grind ‘em [Martu words]

[Image changes to show four photographs of people around a campfire, people around the waterhole, Indigenous faces in the torchlight and people around a table studying a chart]

Male 1: Alright then, we took the children out from school to take ‘em out to show what the grown up mens do on their Ranger trips by cleaning out the rock holes, looking for bugs that’s in the rock hole, [03:55] and that’s something the kids, they’re learning from elders, when their turn come out they can go and do the same what we’ve being doing.

[Image changes to show a group of people posing for a photograph and text appears: Wutananta Nyarku, See you later]

Male 1: Wutananta Nyarku.

Hide transcript

To find out more about the type of on-country projects that the team are delivering, read our blog articles Gone Fishin’: Science Pathways monitoring fish in Warralong and Students Learn Two-Way Science In Remote Western Australian Desert.

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