Inspiring students with hands-on Indigenous science

By Laura Methorst , Ellen Singleton

13 October 2016

3 minute read

Students investigating the best combinations of wood for starting a fire as part of the Year 8 Fire - A Burning Question Inquiry.

Students learn about fire as part of our I2S2 program that teaches students Indigenous and Western sciences.

It’s science time in the classroom – but with an important twist! We’re combining Aboriginal peoples’ and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ science with Western science under our Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students (I2S2) program.

The program showcases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander science and skills that were developed thousands of years ago, with the help from our amazing I2S2 team. Jesse King, a former teacher turned facilitator for the program in North Queensland, is working across classrooms to share his passion for education and Indigenous science.

“When I told them where I was from and that I am an Aboriginal person, a few of them seemed excited,” Jesse said.

“It’s important for our mob to know how you fit into the big picture and I think those kids appreciated me coming into their classroom and working with their teacher.”

Learning by doing

Students are given a question, problem or scenario to work through together with hands-on involvement.

This might be trying to figure out the best combinations of wood for fire starting or studying traditional cooking methods to learn about the properties and behaviours of solids, liquids and gases. We make sure to tailor the scenarios specifically for each of the Years 5 to 9 levels involved in the program so the students and teachers can get the most education (and of course fun!) out of each lesson.

“The majority of teachers involved with the program have breathed a sigh of relief when they have seen the amount of support the program provides them with. We work very hard to empower our teachers to work in this space,” Jesse said.

“On top of this, we’re finding that when students are given the chance to be involved in hands-on inquiry processes they really seem to be taking the opportunity with both hands, which is good.”

The program is also designed to build on the relationship between schools, students and the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and Elders.

“The knowledge available in local communities is ten thousand fold what I can offer,” Jesse said. “We start the conversation between the school and the local community and spark that interest.”

Since the program started in 2015 we’ve already been to 45 schools and reached more than 5,000 students, with an aim to roll-out across more schools Australia-wide in the years to come.

Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students is part of a broader Indigenous STEM Education Project funded by BHP Billiton Foundation and delivered by CSIRO.

You can find more about our exciting education programs here.