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Working in close collaboration with teachers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts define cultural learning goals according to what’s happening on country at that time of the year. Two-way Science is a culturally and environmentally responsive approach to teaching and learning.

Dr. Elaine Lewis

Coolbinia Primary School is a metropolitan school about eight kilometers north of Perth. And this little school has about 415 students and is truly very fortunate to have a bushland adjacent to the school buildings. So it's only a few steps away and you're in the Bushland. And you've got wonderful opportunities, as an outdoor classroom, in that bushland.

Working two ways, at Coolbinia, is all about developing relationships, relationships over a long-term, demonstrating respect. To do a lot of these innovative activities, we need funds. We need to show respect to Aboriginal elders and make sure that they're recompensed appropriately.

So where do we get this funding from? At Coolbinia, there's a range of sources. And one of them is, we use some school fundings, we use the amenities fees that parents will pay for particular incursions. We apply for Aboriginal PALS grants, and that brings in $1,000 a year. $1,000 means I can get an Aboriginal educator or artist in for a whole day to work with a series of classes. I apply for the NAIDOC Week grant. That's another $1,000 that I can get an Aboriginal educator in.

The types of work that we do with our Aboriginal educators relate directly to what has to be covered in the different year levels of the curriculum. Two-Way Science has been a major part of our work in the bushland. Over recent years, we've had a major focus on engaging with our bushland as an outdoor classroom. How can we help our children to understand and care for the bushland, to have a sense of stewardship? To be responsible for what happens in their bushland? And to do this, we felt that it was really important to bring in Aboriginal educators and artists to help the children understand it from a different level, in a different way.

And so the Aboriginal educators would take our children on guided walks, help them to understand the different species of fauna and flora in our bushland. And similarly, with the artists, they would do drawings or paintings of different flora and fauna in the bushland, work with those Aboriginal artists to see their understandings and perspectives. That really enriched the learning. So they weren't just doing biological diagrams, they were understanding on a different sort of level. And I think that enriched the program, it engaged the children much more. And the children became aware of how intimately the sort of Western science methodology, and Aboriginal understandings, and scientific knowledge were all combined together. And you could learn in both ways.

Coolbinia Primary School engages with bushland next to the school as an outdoor classroom for STEM, art, and literacy projects. Cross Curriculum Leader, Dr. Elaine Lewis, plans an integrated two-way science learning program with local Noongar elders, educators, and artists.

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Adriana Truscott

Wiluna Remote Community School is a two-way school and that means that we operate in a culturally balanced fashion. And that's from the classroom to administration and leadership throughout the school. Our school council is a very knowledgeable group of elders from the community. We're very much managed from a cultural non-management perspective. What that means is that we have an opportunity for there to be input from elders and families about what's important for learning. So for example, at the beginning of the year, when we have our staff development days, which is so important to really set the vision for the school for the teacher, to understand what the vision of the school is, what the strategic direction of the school is, how we operate as a team. At that time, at the beginning of the year, we have elders come in and explain to families what that vision is. Showing teachers what life here is, what the relationship is between the community and the school and education.

What the Mardu calendar is about, why the Mardu calendar is important.

The Mardu calendar shows what's happening right now around Wiluna. And it allows teachers a window into the language, into culture but also a window into understanding what's important to people right now. How do I contextualize the learning? How do I make the learning real and relevant for our students so they can be successful? Working two way with families and students and working really as a team so we can keep going so we can continue the momentum that we've built up through the Mardu calendar, through the work that you see around the school. It's not only about the art and the plants and how we have designed the school, but we have programs here in the school that implements traditional knowledge and Western science. We have a pathway that goes from kindy pre-primary, all the way through to training. And then afterwards to employments, which is focused very much on traditional ecological knowledge, which is focused on Western knowledge and where those two meet.

Wiluna is located on Mardu Country in Western Australia. Wiluna Remote Community School works with the community to incorporate Mardu knowledge and culture in the school curriculum. Former principal Adriano Truscott explains how they achieve this.

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