There is a beautiful Indigenous garden at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Queensland. It provides a safe and immersive learning experience for students to learn about Country. Educators can hold their classes on site, students can harvest plants to learn more about traditional culture, or they can enjoy some quiet time or mindfulness activities.
"When COVID hit, people weren't coming to the campus as often. So, we had to make the garden more accessible to everyone. And that's when we came up with the idea of digitising the garden," Isabelle said.
ACU students and teachers can now view the garden online. This includes a map and trail with pop-up information about the plants. There are also QR codes on interpretative signage so people visiting the garden can read more about the plants and their many uses.
“We’ve taken photos and videos of all the plants and plan to develop a fully interactive online tour so the public can enjoy the garden too,” she noted.
From rural to virtual: an Indigenous garden tour for students in far-off places
Isabelle partnered with Miss Naomi Arthurson from Wonga Beach State School in far North Queensland as a part of our STEM Professionals in Schools program. Isabelle used the digitised garden as the basis of her partnership activity with Naomi.
Isabelle facilitated a virtual walkthrough of ACU’s Indigenous garden with Naomi’s students. After the walkthrough, the children could submit questions to Isabelle through Naomi.
"We’d discuss things like the different everyday uses for the plants including recipes. The children really got into it. It was great," Isabelle smiled.
Inspired by this experience, Naomi and her students decided to locate and label the Indigenous plants growing in their own school. The students then created a plant product or seedling to take home.
"We are also exploring creating interactive signs to locate near our Indigenous plants," Naomi said.
STEM without boundaries: bridging the distance for rural and remote learners
"Working with First Peoples communities, I've become interested in the biochemistry side of the plants. Through my partnership, I can share that side of plants with the teacher and students too," Isabelle said.
Through initiatives like STEM Professionals in Schools and the creative use of technology, sustainable and innovative engagement around science is possible. This is true even in rural and remote locations.
About the STEM Professionals in Schools program
The STEM Professionals in Schools program is Australia's largest national skilled volunteer program for STEM professionals and classroom educators. It allows STEM professionals like Isabelle to work with teachers like Miss Naomi. The program is supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and delivered by CSIRO.