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Using indigenous contexts to teach the Australian curriculum: science

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Science teachers can access a complete suite of resources from Foundation to Year 10 to support them in integrating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority into Science subjects.

ACARA has also published teacher background information for Foundation – Year 6 to complete the resources available.

The resources have been developed in response to feedback from community and educators, for material to support teachers incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures into teaching the Australian Curriculum: Science.

Building on work completed in 2018 (when ACARA published 95 ‘elaborations’ – practical examples across all three strands of the Science curriculum and all year levels), the final compilation of teacher background information adds additional detail to these elaborations and is now available for use.

The information includes detailed explanations into the cultural and historical significance of each topic and the connection to the core Science curriculum content. It also includes a list of consulted works, provided as evidence of the research undertaken.

In South Australia, work is underway to roll out the elaborations into schools. Local science teachers are working with Aboriginal communities, the South Australian education department, the South Australian Museum and ACARA to develop teaching resources and improve teacher cultural awareness.

Sam Tuffnell, Science and STEM Coordinator at Woodville High School, is one of those teachers.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the oldest, continuous living culture in the world and it would be negligent of us as a scientific community to not embed their knowledge in mainstream classroom learning. This is the educational right of all students,” Mr Tuffnell said.

“This project is about working with community and we have the privilege of working with Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri/Narungga Elders who guides us in contextualising these elaborations… This inclusive consultation process is most important as we need to be respectful of the local cultural knowledge we incorporate in these contextualisations. It would be remiss to make generalisations about Aboriginal knowledge.”

Deputy Principal, Mal Jurgs, is another teacher incorporating the elaborations into his science classroom at Meningie Area School.

“I have taught science for over 30 years and from what I have seen of the elaborations, they provide the opportunity for students to see that Aboriginal People applied scientific thinking and processes to develop their ability to live in a variety of environments across Australia,” Mr Jurgs said.

“For me personally, it will allow me to provide a link to the curriculum through which to ‘hook' my students who identify as Aboriginal. That is not to say that [the elaborations] are a ‘novelty’, I see them as valid ways of delivering the curriculum.”

ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho, said “We have a complete research-based, scientifically rigorous teaching resource that supports Foundation to Year 10 teachers of science.

“The elaborations have already proved a useful starting point in enhancing teacher knowledge and enthusiasm about incorporating our Indigenous culture into science.”

The F–10 elaborations and teacher background information can be accessed on the Australian Curriculum website, or downloaded as PDFs (F–6 booklet (PDF 4.3mb) and 7–10 booklet (PDF 8.5 mb)).

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