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By  Jessica Hildyard 27 May 2024 3 min read

Key points

  • Living STEM and the Mamutjitji Story are connecting science education with Aboriginal ecological knowledge.
  • CSIRO Education supported the development of a new app, which tells a Traditional story in both Ngalia and English.
  • Ngalia language is spoken by the people in the Leonora Community and the Western Desert of Western Australia.

Our Indigenous STEM Education project has supported the development of first-ever app in Ngalia language. This interactive resource tells the Mamutjitji Story, a Dreamtime story belonging to the Ngalia Western Desert Aboriginal People.

The connection to ancient ways through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is the leading model for CSIRO Education's work. Going back almost a decade, it was part of the former Indigenous STEM Education project, Science Pathways. When the Science Pathways program ended in 2020, Indigenous-led education resources were published in a book: Two-way Science published by CSIRO Publishing.

Cover of Two-way Science featuring the hand of an Indigenous person, pointing to a mallee fowl feather in red sand

Living Indigenous science

We've given new life to two-way science components as teaching models, creating the new teacher's professional learning program, Living STEM.

David Broun was the Science Pathways Lead and Living STEM's first program manager. Now working at the Department of Education Western Australia, David helped develop the Mamutjiti app.

"It's a privilege to continue to be part of this work, working with Community," David says.

"I started working with Kado Muir (the app's owner) back at Leonora District High School during the Science Pathways program."

Kado Muir is a senior leader and Ngalia Traditional Owner. A holder of cultural knowledge, Kado is from the Ngalia dialect family of the Mantijiltjara language group. He has Traditional territorial ties in the Western Desert of Western Australia.

David says he was delighted when Kado got in touch last year with him last year: "Kado was asking for some science activities that we could use to demonstrate and to connect to the classroom."

"We used the Mamutijiti Dreamtime story as an impetus for all sorts of STEM investigations, like those in the app."

While working for us, David saw connections to how researchers survey and sample reptiles and invertebrates by drawing them into pits. These pits resembled those created by Mamutijiti in the storytelling and local knowledges shared with him by the Leonora Community.

David says creating those links between scientific practices helps to connect students to education in a meaningful way. He says it's terrific seeing Kado and the Leonora Community take this knowledge to the next step, digitising and sharing the local knowledges, and using Ngalia language.

"It's great that Aboriginal knowledge and language are forming a central part of the learning program for students," David says.

"That there is this way of connecting local knowledge to activities in the classroom. It's important and powerful for Aboriginal students' wellbeing and achievement, and helps all kids to understand the country and culture where they live.

Telling the Mamutjitji Story

Mamutjitji is the Ngalia word for an insect known in English as the antlion, the larvae of the delicate lacewing. These larvae are grub-like, with large jaws projecting from their head, which they use to seize their prey. The antlions dig circular pits which their unsuspecting prey fall into, where the antlion is waiting.

Mamutijiti Story takes the knowledges of this lifecycle, shared via storytelling originating from the Western Desert of Western Australia.

Antlion (Myrmeleontidae) larva. Image credit: Jonathan Numer, used under a Creative Commons License[Link will open in a new window][Link will open in a new window].
Antlion (Myrmeleontidae) larva ©  English-language Wikipedia, Jonathan3784

This lifecycle is then transformed into a valuable technology resource. The app’s two-way science model encourages students and other remote communities to embrace innovation and technology. The app's creation and funding through Australia and New Zealand's governments also follows the principles of positive, mutually beneficial collaboration. It's this approach that underpins the teaching outcomes of Living STEM and other Indigenous STEM education initiatives.

You can download the app for Apple and Android mobile devices from your usual app stores, it is free and accessible. The app is highly interactive and narrated in Ngalia and English, with animation, artwork, and game features.

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