Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures Illustrations of practice

Two-way science at Leonora: investigating the Mamutjitji (antlion) and other invertebrates


Leonora District High School is a Foundation to Year 12 government school located in the remote mining community of Leonora which is 840 kms north-east of Perth in Western Australia on the traditional lands of the Wankatja people. It has an enrolment of 97 students, of whom 73% are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

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 Leonora community, cultural organisations bring traditional and cultural knowledge, and work alongside staff at the school, particularly local Aboriginal staff, to help make the curriculum relevant and engaging for students. It is a process of collaboration, cross-cultural communication and engagement. The result of this collaboration is that new ideas are introduced to students through a cross-cultural lens so they become comfortable with the curriculum that is being taught to achieve learning outcomes.

In this illustration, educators from three composite classes (years 1-2, years 3-4 and years 7-10) help to develop students’ science inquiry skills through an investigation of an invertebrate and the Mamutjitji Dreaming story. Mamutjitji is a Ngalia language name for an invertebrate also known as the antlion, the larval form of the lacewing fly. Students: 

  1. learn about the Mamutjitji, its life cycle, its environment and feeding habits
  2. connect the antlion trap to the use of pit traps and use these traps to explore, identify and assess ground-invertebrate biodiversity in different habitats
  3. connect the study of invertebrates to traditional practices of collecting Yililtu (honey ants) and Lungki (bardi grubs)
  4. engage in committing learning to memory through visualisation and performance of traditional Ngalia Mamutjiitji song.

At Leonora, 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 to 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 Islander Peoples’ ways of life are uniquely expressed through ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing

OI.8: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' family and kinship structures are strong and sophisticated

OI.9: The significant contributions of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the present and past are acknowledged locally, nationally and globally.


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

Identify invertebrates, Mamutjitji Dreaming story and movements, structural features and life cycle of the antlion reflected in the Mamutjitji Dreaming story, and investigate antlion and invertebrate anatomy

Living things have a variety of external features (ACSSU017) | Exploring how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ traditional dances mimic and replicate movements and features of animals (Year 1)

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 (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 have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (ACSSU043) | Investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' knowledge of the adaptations of certain species and how those adaptations can be exploited for survival (Year 5)

Invertebrate life cycle, define habitat, and Mamutjitji Dreaming story reflected in antlion behaviour and habitat

Living things live in different places where their needs are met (ACSSU211) | Recognising how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples care for living things (Foundation Year)

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 the 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 | Chemical Sciences

Investigate the materials used in the antlion pit to trap prey

Objects are made of materials that have observable properties (ACSSU003) (Year 1)

Different materials can be combined for a particular purpose (ACSSU031) (Year 3)

Natural and processed materials have a range of physical properties that can influence their use (ACSSU074) (Year 4)

Science Understanding | Physical Sciences

Investigate the shape and structure of the antlion pit and the different sized grains of sand

The way objects move depends on a variety of factors, including their size and shape (ACSSU005) (Year 1)

Science as Human Endeavour

Traditional knowledge-holder led field trip

People use science in their daily lives, including when caring for their environment and living things ACSHE022 (Year 1), ACSHE035 (Year 2)

Science knowledge helps people to understand the effects of their actions ACSHE051 (Year 3), ACSHE062 (Year 4)

Two-way investigation of the Malcolm Dam as a community resource

Science involves observing, asking questions about, and describing changes in, objects and events (ACSHE034) | Recognising how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples describe developmental changes in living organisms and answer questions about when to harvest certain resources (Year 2)

Science involves making predictions and describing patterns and relationships (ACSHE061) | Considering how scientific practices such as sorting, classification and estimation are used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in everyday life (Year 4)

Science knowledge can develop through collaboration across the disciplines of science and the contributions of people from a range of cultures (ACSHE223) | Investigating how land management practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can help inform sustainable management of the environment (Year 7) | Recognising that traditional and Western scientific knowledge can be used in combination to care for Country/Place (Year 7)

People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE121) | Investigating how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' knowledge is being used to inform scientific decisions, for example care of waterways (Year 7)

Science Inquiry Skills

Plan and conduct a science investigation

Pose and respond to questions, and make predictions about familiar objects and events (ACSIS024) (Year 1), (ACSIS037) (Year 2)

Participate in guided investigations to explore and answer questions (ACSIS025) (Year 1), (ACSIS038) (Year 2)

With guidance, identify questions in familiar contexts that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on prior knowledge (ACSIS053) (Year 3), (ACSIS064) (Year 4)

Consider the elements of fair tests and use formal measurements and digital technologies as appropriate to make and record observations accurately (ACSIS055) (Year 3), (ACSIS066) (Year 4)

With guidance, pose questions to clarify practical problems or inform a scientific investigation, and predict what the findings of an investigation might be (ACSIS231) | Acknowledging and using information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide the formulation of investigable questions about adaptations (Year 5)

With guidance, plan appropriate investigation methods to answer questions or solve problems (ACSIS086) (Year 5)

Use a digital microscope

Use informal measurements to collect and record observations, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS026) (Year 1), (ACSIS039) (Year 2)

Use tables and select insect types/categories

Consider the elements of fair tests and use formal measurements and digital technologies as appropriate to make and record observations accurately (ACSIS055) (Year 3), (ACSIS066) (Year 4)

Decide which variable should be changed and measured in fair tests and accurately observe, measure and record data, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS087) (Year 5)

Record results in a table, make a graph of results, compare results with others and different sites; engage with Aboriginal people in the identification of invertebrates

Use a range of methods to sort information, including drawings and providing tables through discussion, compare observations with predictions (ACSIS027) (Year 1), (ACSIS040) (Year 2)

Represent and communicate observations and ideas in a variety of ways (ACSIS029) (Year 1)Acknowledging and learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ways of representing and sharing observations

Use a range of methods including tables and simple column graphs to represent data and to identify patterns and trends (ACSIS057) (Year 3), (ACSIS068) (Year 4)

Compare observations with those of others (ACSIS213) | Consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to compare observations and evaluate identifications of animal tracks (Year 1)

Construct and use a range of representations, including tables and graphs, to represent and describe observations, patterns or relationships in data using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS090) (Year 5)

Reflect on investigations, including whether a test was fair or not (ACSIS058) (Year 3), (ACSIS069) (Year 4)

Compare data with predictions and use as evidence in developing explanations (ACSIS218) (Year 5)

Suggest improvements to the methods used to investigate a question or solve a problem (ACSIS091) (Year 5)


This learning sequence lends itself to links to other Australian Curriculum learning areas:

History and Social Sciences

Year 3

The representation of Australia as states and territories and as Countries/Places of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; and major places in Australia, both natural and human (ACHASSK066)

Year 4

The importance of environments, including natural vegetation, to animals and people (ACHASSK088)


Year 3

Data representation and interpretation

Identify questions or issues for categorical variables. Identify data sources and plan methods of data collection and recording (ACMSP068)

Collect data, organise into categories and create displays using lists, tables, picture graphs and simple column graphs, with and without the use of digital technologies (ACMSP069)

Interpret and compare data displays (ACMSP070)

Year 4

Data representation and interpretation

Select and trial methods for data collection, including survey questions and recording sheets (ACMSP095)

Construct suitable data displays, with and without the use of digital technologies, from given or collected data. Include tables, column graphs and picture graphs where one picture can represent many data values (ACMSP096)

Evaluate the effectiveness of different displays in illustrating data features including variability (ACMSP097)

Health and Physical Education

Year 3

Discuss and interpret health information and messages in the media and internet (ACPPS039)

Year 4

Use of persistence and resilience as tools to respond positively to challenges and failure, such as: using self-talk; seeking help; thinking optimistically (ACPPS033)

Digital Technologies

Foundation -Year 2

Recognise and explore patterns in data and represent data as pictures, symbols and diagrams (ACTDIK002)

Collect, explore and sort data, and use digital systems to present the data creatively (ACTDIP003)

Follow, describe and represent a sequence of steps and decision (algorithms) to solve simple problems (ACTDIP004)

Create and organize ideas and information using information systems, independently and with others, and share these with known people in safe online environments (ACTDIP006)

Year 3 - 4

Recognise different types of data and explore how the same data can be represented in different ways (ACTDIK008)

Collect, access and present different types of data using simple software to create information and solve problems (ACTDIP009)

Define simple problems, and describe and follow a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve them (ACTDIP010)

Plan, create and communicate ideas and information independently and with others, applying agreed ethical and social protocols (ACTDIP013)

Year 5 – 6

Acquire, store and validate different types of data, and use a range of software to interpret and visualize data to create information (ACTDIP016)

Plan, create and communicate ideas and information, including collaboratively online, applying agreed ethical, social and technical protocols (ACTDIP022)

  1. This illustration has highlighted how Aboriginal scientific knowledge can be a focus within the Science curriculum in particular but can incorporate other learning areas. What might be the implications of this for student learning?
  2. Traditional knowledge holders play a significant role in student learning. What are ways teachers can access traditional knowledge in different settings while considering ethical and cultural guidelines?
  3. How does the whole school approach enhance teaching and learning?
  1. Long term plan
  2. Two-way science diagram
  3. Two-way science planner
  4. Comprehensive antlion info and videos http://www.antlionpit.com/antlions.html
  5. CSIRO Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities: https://www.csiro.au/en/Education/Programs/Indigenous-STEM/Science-Pathways
  6. 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.)

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