Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Indigenous Science Education -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Indigenous Science Education

Aboriginal elders and local teachers are joining forces to promote science in Australia's
indigenous communities.

Anja Taylor

Is that one or is that, that looks a bit rotten.

Woman

Yeah that's an edible one. It's edible under there.

Anja Taylor

Is it?

Student

It's good.

Anja Taylor

These kids are having a fantastic time, understandably. They're in a beautiful landscape, being
entertained by stories from an ancient culture but ironically it's being out here that's helping
keep them in the classroom longer.

Students

(LAUGH)

Anja Taylor

Oh wrong way.

NARRATION

It's all part of the Indigenous Science Education Program put together by Macquarie University.

David Harrington

The philosophy behind this program is to engage indigenous students in learning by providing
positive role models here at the school by putting the indigenous students front and centre showing
that they are good at things outside of sport.

NARRATION

The program is part of the curriculum at Maclean High School on the North Coast of New South Wales.
It was introduced back in 2004 with peer to peer teaching.

Student

Does anyone else want to pick him up that hasn't had a go? Come on guys be brave. (LAUGHS)

Andrew Ford

The aim of this is to get Aboriginal kids working, get them engaged with within education through
science. It's not necessarily to create scientists. Obviously their knowledge does increase because
they're doing the hands on practical activities.

Students

(LAUGH)

Andrew Ford

So it sucks water in at the back of the carapace and it passes it right out across the front.

Anja Taylor

So this is a pretty easy job for you Andrew?

Andrew Ford

Yeah it's a very easy job. The kids do an excellent thing. They take over from us and it's
excellent to see the year 7 kids listening to someone else.

Anja Taylor

Yes.

Andrew Ford

It's, it's different for them having the students run the demonstration.

Anja Taylor

Do they respond well?

Andrew Ford

Yeah they do. It takes a little bit to warm up.

Anja Taylor

They sort of come out of their shell when they've actually got something to interact with.

Andrew Ford

Yeah.

Anja Taylor

Got it.

Student

Woo!

NARRATION

This hands on approach certainly puts the fun into learning.

Anja Taylor

I'm a yabby wrangler.

Students

(LAUGH)

NARRATION

The program was started at the request of local elders.

Uncle Ron

Aboriginal people used to walk down there and they used to pick the stone that suits their hand
grip you know?

David Harrington

The elders were very concerned that the majority of their student weren't completing year 12. They
were sort of seeing student after student basically being very promising early on in their career
at high school but the time they get to year 12, they were dropping out at a really high rate.

Andrew Ford

What are these stones? What are they made of? What are they?

Student

Basalt.

Andrew Ford

They're basalt. That one there you can actually mount and form an axe head that way.

Uncle Ron

There was an outcry from a lot of the Aboriginal people. They weren't getting a fair go at school.
The white system was only meant for all the white people so we decided to do a system that was
meant for both you know?

Andrew Ford

Have a look at the shape on that one we found.

NARRATION

So the program recognizes and includes indigenous culture.

Uncle Ron

Yeah, well definitely grind this one.

Andrew Ford

Yep we grind that one?

Uncle Ron

Yeah.

Andrew Ford

And the shiny one?

NARRATION

Uncle Ron is taking them through the process of shaping stones into tools.

Uncle Ron

But that'll be like a handheld one.

What you've got to do is you've got to put a bit of muscle in it. That's why they traded it inland.

Andrew Ford

Got someone else to do it.

Uncle Ron

For someone else to do it, to do all the hard work.

Andrew Ford

Yeah. They're the driving force out here. We have the elders give a lot of the verbal knowledge. As
a science teacher I give that scientific back up but the elders basically drive what we do out here
on the field. This is their country, this is their knowledge.

Uncle Ron

I've often had some of the other older people that's passed on, well the religious ones would say
"oh this is God's gift to the Yaegl people", all of this lower Clarence and the beaches.

Woman

Now we're going to look for some piggy faces ah? Say if you're away from home and you're out
walking you know and you haven't got any food, you go looking for these to quench your thirst as
well as put a bit of lining on your stomach.

Anja Taylor

And that's why it's called 'piggy face'.

NARRATION

Not only are the students enjoying the learning, the program is clearly having an impact.

Woman

Put it in your mouth and squeeze it.

Anja Taylor

Has it made you interested at all in, in science?

Student

Yep. I love studying plants and yeah just I love trying out new stuff over the year so ...

Anja Taylor

What does it, what does it taste like?

Student

Just like a Juicy Fruit.

Anja Taylor

Really?

Student

Yeah.

David Harrington

It's been a wonderful success here. Here at Maclean High School, last year we had ninety four
percent of indigenous students complete it, Year 12, whereas seven years ago when we started this
program, it was less than seventy percent.

Woman

I think that's nail polish.

Student

Nail polish?

Woman

I think it's vinegar.

Uncle Ron

Going to school isn't a torment for them anymore and you know and not like it used to be. It was
agony you know for them but now the younger ones, they're out to do Year 12 you know and from there
go on to do TAFE or university.