Learning together through two-way science at Wiluna Remote Community School
Wiluna is situated in the mid-west region of Western Australia on the edge of the Western Desert. Wiluna Remote Community School has a population of between 70 and 105 students. Most students are Wiluna Martu and the Aboriginal language of the area is Martu Wangka. However, most Martu at Wiluna speak Aboriginal English. Wiluna School also has students of both Fijian and Tongan ethnic origins.
The school is participating in CSIRO's Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities Indigenous STEM Education Project, funded by the BHP foundation. Students learn science that links Aboriginal ecological knowledge through on-Country and classroom projects to the Australian Curriculum: Science. This approach to teaching is referred to as Two-way Science and provides a context for delivering the Australian Curriculum: Science.
In this illustration of practice, Years 2-4 students learn about the nganamarra (malleefowl), where it lives, how it builds its nests, and how to tell the difference between the tracks of the nganamarra, kalaya (emu) and patarta (bush turkey). The on-Country learning and classroom follow-up connect Aboriginal knowledge with the Australian Curriculum: Science.
The following information identifies the various activities in the school’s learning program. Each of the activities (in bold) relates to the relevant Australian Curriculum: Science Content Description/s (in italics), with the Elaboration/s (in blue) providing context. Some of the activities connect across Year levels.
Science Understanding | Biological sciences
With an Aboriginal Elder, identify animals through differences in their tracks; identify different plants that characterise malleefowl habitat, learn their language names and uses, create a mural to show the different animals and plants in malleefowl habitat
Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things (ACSSU044) | Investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ systems of classifying living things and how these systems differ from those used by contemporary science | recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ use of observable features to group living things (Year 3)
With an Aboriginal Elder, investigate the life cycle of the malleefowl and the structure of its mound nest, how the malleefowl looks after its eggs and offspring, and how malleefowl and their eggs were considered a food source in the past
Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves (ACSSU030) (Year 2)
Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072) | Investigating how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples understand and utilise the lifecycles of certain species (Year 4)
Identify tracks of animals as a food source for Aboriginal people; investigate the way that the malleefowl uses material from the environment to construct its nest and the seasonal conditions required for the laying and incubation of eggs, and how knowledge of this was used by Aboriginal people in the past to source seasonal food
Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073) | Recognising how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples perceive themselves as being an integral part of the environment (Year 4)
Science Inquiry Skills
Identify cat tracks near the malleefowl nest, the potential impact of cats on the malleefowl and other threatened species, and the connection of this to the work of local Aboriginal ranger programs (an extension activity which does not appear in the video)
With guidance, identify questions in familiar contexts that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on prior knowledge (ACSIS053) | Consulting with and using existing knowledge held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide the formulation of investigable questions regarding invasive species (Year 3)
After teaching from an Aboriginal Elder, consider: ‘You are a malleefowl, what do you need to build your nest?’ Identify plant litter used by the malleefowl to build the mound nest, construct a malleefowl mound nest model at school, explore the insulation properties of the litter and the work of the malleefowl in covering and uncovering the nest to maintain an even temperature
With guidance, identify questions in familiar contexts that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on prior knowledge (ACSIS064) | Acknowledging and using information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide the formulation of investigable questions regarding life cycles (Year 4)
Construct a model of a malleefowl mound nest at school with an Aboriginal Elder; invite students, teachers and community to visit the nest model
Represent and communicate observations, ideas and findings using formal and informal representations (ACSIS060) | Consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ representations of living things as evidenced and communicated through formal and informal sharing of information | acknowledging and exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ways of communicating information about anatomical features of organisms (Year 3)
Consider ‘What does a malleefowl needs to survive?’ (food, shelter and reproduction = habitat); sort leaf litter to identify diet, investigate seeds and insects using a digital microscope, create a mural showing the connections between different elements of the habitat (food chain)
With guidance, plan and conduct scientific investigations to find answers to questions, considering the safe use of appropriate materials and equipment (ACSIS065) (Year 4)
Represent and communicate observations, ideas and findings using formal and informal representations (ACSIS071) (Year 4)
- How are the Aboriginal and Western knowledge systems represented and taught in this illustration of practice? How does this engender an appreciation of the value and importance of both systems?
- How can both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students benefit from the involvement of Indigenous knowledge holders in a learning program?
- How has the development of science understanding in students been supported by educators?
- Nganamarra Case Study
- Wiluna season calendar
- Learning Together Through Relationships and Language. A video made by Wiluna Remote Community School
- CSIRO Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities: https://www.csiro.au/en/Education/Programs/Indigenous-STEM/Science-Pathways
- CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project: https://www.csiro.au/en/Education/Programs/Indigenous-STEM (Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities is part of the broader CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project delivered by CSIRO and funded by the BHP Foundation.)