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Aboriginal scientific insights to be part of SA curriculum

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Aboriginal science discoveries and practices will be taught for the first time in South Australian classrooms.

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The State Government today announced a new initiative aimed to increase Aboriginal students’ interest and involvement in science subjects.

Local science teachers will work with Aboriginal communities and a host of partners – State Department of Education, the South Australian Museum, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) – to develop a framework of learning and teaching.

This initiative “is in response to ACARA’s development of 95 new science elaborations that provide practical examples of how teachers can use Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientific knowledge in the Australian curriculum: Science.”

As part of the Aboriginal Education Strategy, the knowledge will be initially introduced in Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Narungga classrooms before hitting metropolitan schools.

In 2017 the overall attendance rate for Aboriginal children was nationally 83.2 per cent, compared to 93 per cent for non-Aboriginal students.

Department for Education Executive Director Susan Cameron said she is “excited” for science educators to collaborate with the indigenous community and to enhance engagement for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal pupils at school.

“This initiative is transforming the way educators teach science, in a way that is culturally relevant, respectful and of value to Aboriginal students,” said Cameron.

“We’re excited to be working with Aboriginal communities, their representatives and Elders, ACARA, and the South Australian Museum to explore the many examples that showcase how South Australian Aboriginal Nations have long worked scientifically and continue to contribute to contemporary science.”

Chemistry students could study discoveries like spinifex resin – sap found in native grass which can be used as an adhesive – which has been used by indigenous communities for hundreds of years, suggested the Department for Education in a statement.

ACARA Curriculum Specialist Joe Sambono said these century-old practices are valuable to scientific understanding throughout schools and in the industry.

“Aboriginal people for thousands of years have been working with the chemical components of nature to produce useful substances like adhesives, medicine, pigments, lime and acid,” he said.

“In the development of these processes and products innumerable challenges were overcome.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s long held capacity to work scientifically continues today, with the increasing presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientists across the STEM arena.”

The South Australian Museum – which InDaily reported holds more than 95 per cent of its nationally renowned Aboriginal collection in an “at risk” building – will provide digital resources for schools.

The CSIRO’s Indigenous Stem Education Program operates on a federal level to demonstrate the scientific value of the ecological knowledge of Australia’s First Nations Peoples and bring this knowledge to tertiary students in remote, regional and metropolitan areas.

It has reported elevated levels of engagement (38 per cent improved their results) from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and an increase in student aspirations to pursue STEM education at university.

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