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By  Holly Stemm 6 November 2023 3 min read

Key points

  • Lizz Hills, an educator, trekked across Australia and ignited students’ imagination and interest in science and their ability to problem solve.
  • As a 2023 STEM Together Future Shaper, Lizz chose to equip schools to learn about earth science.
  • Apply to be a 2024 Future Shaper and support young people to learn vital skills. Applicants can co-design a prize to supercharge their skillset.

Lizz Hills left Queensland on foot in January 2023. She arrived in Western Australia six months and 6000 kilometres later.

Her walk took her through rainforest, desert, urban and coastal landscapes. She also stopped at 14 schools. At each, she delivered  fascinating educational programs about the vital role of Earth’s ecosystems.

Thanks to these encounters, Lizz discovered how interested children were in the world around them. They wanted to know about big global issues like climate change and natural disasters. And they wanted to understand their role and take action.

How Lizz walked her talk

Lizz's 'Trek 2 Reconnect' grew from the ashes of the crises Australia has faced in recent times. Bushfires came close to her workplace, the Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre. Shortly after, there was the COVID19 pandemic and then flooding in her community.

"We didn't have a lot of time to process it all. I saw an impact on my students and their outlook change on what is possible," Lizz said.

This motivated her to do something positive. Lizz wanted to help students across the country to "right size their perspective," to help them build resilience and see they play a role in Earth's future.

Whenever she visited a school on her epic journey, Lizz had a goal. She wanted to help students make sense of their changing world by talking about Earth’s evolutionary history and cyclical nature. They explored topics like water, air soil, plants, animals – and finally, the future. According to Lizz, some students were surprised to hear that adults may not have all the solutions to fix the world's problems.

"The thing that I am really passionate about is helping our kids understand what's ahead and helping them with tools to be inspired that they are part of that solution," she said.

"The Trek 2 Reconnect isn't just a story of one person walking across Australia. It's really about how we can look towards a positive future, and all take one step forward at a time."

Lizz reaches Three Mile Beach in WA on one of the last days of her 6000km+ trek

A Future Shaper helps change the world

At some point in the middle of the country-wide trek, Lizz heard our call for applications for STEM Together Future Shapers and decided to apply.

Future Shapers helps young people boost their confidence, capability and connection with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).  It also recognises the adults –  like teachers, community members, elders, and volunteers –  that help young people to build key '21st century' skills  like problem solving, curiosity and teamwork.

We announced Lizz as one of our five Adult Future Shapers earlier this year. As a Future Shaper, she had the option of designing a prize to help her or students to go further with STEM.  Lizz is choosing to build on the lessons from the 'Trek 2 Reconnect' to reach more schools. We are supporting her to create resource packs for classes based on the earth science topics she covered in the trek. They are filled with things to build, activities to boost creativity and observational studies to carry out.

"What I do changes the world" was the motto for her trek and a lesson for the students she encountered. Through Future Shapers, the journey continues for her and the students she reaches.

The next call for Adult Future Shapers

Applications for adults to become a 2024 Future Shaper are now open.

You don't need to have done something as epic as trekking across the country to be a Future Shaper. We are looking for community group members, educators or STEM professionals that support young people in Years 5-10. It’s time to get recognised for helping young people build their 21st century skills. 

We especially want to hear from you if the young people you support identify as one or more of the following groups: female ;  Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples; those from lower advantage areas; or those from regional areas.

Applications close on 1 December 2023.

STEM Together is powered by CSIRO and BHP Foundation.

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