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.
The Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities program facilitates selected Western Desert community schools, in consultation with Traditional Owners and other elders, to develop integrated Two-way Science teaching and learning programs.
Science Pathways supports the teaching of skills and knowledge identified by Indigenous teachers and elders in each community for the education of their children to look after country. It privileges local Indigenous languages and is linked to Western science, the Australian Curriculum, on-country activities of local Indigenous Ranger groups and any ecological research taking place in each area.
The involvement of Indigenous elders is vital for strong school-community partnerships and for the passing on of Indigenous ecological knowledge. Learning on country trips with community elders, rangers and others form a significant part of Two-Way science education programs. These trips are usually to country of local cultural significance and vary from a couple of hours to week-long camps.
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 activities to their lived experience.
Students, for example, learn about the cultural significance of particular sites and the past and current management of these 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.
In some areas, Science Pathways supports Indigenous teachers and assistant teachers to deliver Indigenous language & culture programs in schools through regular Western Desert languages planning and exchange meetings organised in collaboration with the local education department. Science Pathways also supports Two-way Science teacher training through tailored workshops around language and culture, community engagement and integrated curriculum programming.
Science Pathways links schools and communities with scientific research organisations and vocational education and training. The program also provides two-way science education resources for use in remote community schools.
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).
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.