Two-way science at Areyonga: investigating the health of local springs
Areyonga School is a Northern Territory government school located in a remote community 225 km west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory on the traditional lands of the Pitjantjatjara people. It has an enrolment of 50 students, of whom 100% are Aboriginal.
The school is participating in CSIRO's Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities Indigenous STEM Education Project, through the Tangentyere Council and 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, Years 3-6 students learn about local springs using the two-way approach. Students learn about making predictions prior to an investigation – predicting whether the water in the springs is as healthy, healthier or less healthy than when they carried out their investigation in the previous year. They learn:
- about the tools and methods used to monitor waterholes, both traditional and scientific
- to identify and record details about the small water animals they find
- how to transfer the data from these findings to a pollution indicator chart to assess water health
- how to compare and discuss the differences between the data collected on this trip and that from the previous year.
As a group, they develop an answer to their science investigation.
At Areyonga, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures CCP is integral to everything they do. For the purposes of the teaching and learning that takes place in this illustration, the following Organising Ideas are the main focus:
OI.2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities maintain a special connection with and responsibility for Country/Place
OI.3: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have holistic belief systems and are spiritually and intellectually connected to the land, sea, sky and waterways
OI.5: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples’ ways of life are uniquely expressed through ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing.
The following information identifies the various activities in the school’s learning program. Each of the activities (in bold) relates to a relevant General Capability/ies followed by the key idea/s.
Critical and Creative thinking
Students collecting samples from the water hole
Inquiring - identifying, exploring, and organising information and ideas| Identify and clarify information and ideas
- identify and explore information and ideas from source materials (Level 2)
- identify main ideas and select and clarify information from a range of sources (Level 3)
- identify and clarify relevant information and prioritise ideas (Level 4)
Students making the comparisons between the years of data being collected
Analysing: synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures | Draw conclusions and design a course of action
- draw on prior knowledge and use evidence when choosing a course of action or drawing a conclusion (Level 3)
- scrutinise ideas or concepts, test conclusions and modify actions when designing a course of action (Level 4)
Students making comparisons between the years of data being collected
Interpreting statistical information | Interpret Data Displays
- collect, record and display data as tables, diagrams, picture graphs and column graphs (Year 3)
- collect, compare, describe and interpret data as 2-way tables, double column graphs and sector graphs, including from digital media (Level 4)
Students learning the names of the animals
Interacting and emphasising | Communicate across cultures
- recognise there are similarities and differences in the ways people communicate, both within and across cultural groups (Level 3)
- identify factors that contribute to understanding in intercultural communication and discuss some strategies to avoid misunderstanding (Level 4)
The following information provides the relevant Content Description/s (in italics) followed by the Elaboration/s (in blue) providing context from the Australian Curriculum: Science. Some connect across Year levels.
Science understanding | Biological sciences
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)
Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072) | Investigating how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples understand and utilise the lifecycles of certain species (Year 4)
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)
The growth and survival of living things are affected by physical conditions of their environment (ACSSU094) | Investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge and understanding of the physical conditions necessary for the survival of certain plants and animals in the environment (Year 6)
Science understanding | Earth and space sciences
Some of Earth’s resources are renewable, including water that cycles through the environment, but others are non-renewable (ACSSU116) | Exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ connections with, and valuing of, water and water resource management (Year 7)
Science inquiry skills | Questioning and predicting
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)
Science inquiry skills | Planning and conducting
With guidance, plan and conduct scientific investigations to find answers to questions, considering the safe use of appropriate materials and equipment (ACSIS054) | Consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide the planning of scientific investigations, including safety considerations for field investigations (Year 3)
Identify, plan and apply the elements of scientific investigations to answer questions and solve problems using equipment and materials safely and identifying potential risks (ACSIS086) | Consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide the planning of scientific investigations, considering potential risks for field investigations (Year 5)
Science inquiry skills | Processing and analysing data and information
Compare results with predictions, suggesting possible reasons for findings (ACSIS215) (Year 3)
Compare results with predictions, suggesting possible reasons for findings (ACSIS216) (Year 4)
Science inquiry skills | Questioning and predicting
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)
Science inquiry skills | Communicating
Communicate ideas, explanations and processes using scientific representations in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts (ACSIS093) | Acknowledging and exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ways of representing and communicating information about anatomical features, including structural adaptations (Year 5)
Science as a human endeavour
Scientific knowledge is used to solve problems and inform personal and community decisions (ACSHE083) | Investigating how Torres Strait Islander peoples and Aboriginal peoples of arid regions of Australia use scientific knowledge to manage precious water resources (Year 5)
- How are teachers developing in Aboriginal students a love of science and of culture?
- This illustration of practice demonstrates learning with Aboriginal students. In what ways could non-Indigenous students benefit from this type of learning?
- How have the educators supported the development of science inquiry skills in students?
- Worksheets and lesson plans
- 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.)