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Science and Indigenous culture

Dozens of practical teaching examples for Science have been released to help teachers incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures in the curriculum.

Nearly 100 new practical teaching examples for the Australian Science Curriculum have been released. The suite of learning ideas relates to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority and aims to improve learning outcomes for all students.

The resources have been released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

“Teachers have told us they can generally see a connection between this cross-curriculum priority and some of the learning areas, like Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Arts”
- ACARA CEO, Robert Randall says
“But they have asked for advice on how they can embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learnings in other subject areas, particularly STEM subjects.”

The 95 examples (also labelled as elaborations) span the Science learning areas for Foundation to Year 10 and were developed with the assistance of ACARA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory group and Taskforce, as well as Science and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander curriculum specialists.

“These elaborations… are scientifically rigorous, demonstrating how Indigenous history, culture, knowledge and understanding can be incorporated into teaching core scientific concepts.”
- Randall says

The examples are for optional use by classroom teachers. Currently, background information is available for teachers of Years 7-10 Science which details the cultural and historical significance of each elaboration, and how it connects to the Science Curriculum. Similar background information will soon become available for F-6 educators.

The suggestions are highly practical. For example, for Year 3 students learning how a change of state between solid and liquid can be caused by adding or removing heat, ACARA suggests students look at the changes of state evident in materials used by Indigenous peoples, like beeswax or resins.

Students in Year 6 can investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge of the physical conditions needed for certain plants and animals to survive in order to learn how the growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment.

And, educators can explain the methods used by Indigenous Australians to convert toxic plants into edible food products in order to teach Year 10 students about the different types of chemical reactions to produce a range of products.

It’s hoped that the resources will provide a more culturally responsive learning experience for Indigenous students and, ultimately, lead to better educational outcomes. Educators can access the new ACARA materials by visiting www.australiancurriculum.edu.au.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.