Educator, Lizz Hills, left Queensland on foot in January and arrived in Western Australia six months and 6000 kilometres later bringing the message about climate change and natural disasters to 14 schools on the way.
The ‘Trek 2 Reconnect’ grew from the ashes of the crises Australia faced in recent times. Bushfires came close to her workplace, the Wild Mountains Environmental Education Centre. Shortly after, there was COVID and then flooding in her community.
Lizz said, “We didn't have a lot of time to process it all. I saw an impact on my students and their outlook for what is possible.”
Lizz wanted to help students across the country to “right size their perspective,” to help them build resilience and see that they play a role in the planet’s future.
In her school visits, she helped students make sense of their changing world by talking about Earth’s evolutionary history and cyclical nature. They explored topics like water, air soil, plants, animals and the future.
Some students were surprised to hear that adults may not have all the solutions yet to fix the world’s problems.
She said, “The thing that I am really passionate about is helping our kids understand what's ahead and helping them with tools to be inspired that they are part of that solution.
“The Trek 2 Reconnect isn’t just a story of one person walking across Australia. It’s really about how we can look towards a positive future, and all take one step forward at a time towards it,” Lizz said.
During the trek Lizz heard CSIRO’s call for applications for the 2023 STEM Together Future Shapers and decided to apply.
STEM Together is a program that helps young people boost their confidence, capability and connection with STEM. It is powered by CSIRO and BHP Foundation.
It has a regular roster of free educator professional learning events on cutting edge STEM and education topics. Through its ‘Future Shapers’ initiative, it recognises students as well as adults that help young people to build key ‘21st Century’ skills like problem solving and curiosity.
Lizz was one of five announced as Adult Future Shapers earlier this year. As a Future Shaper, she had the option of designing a prize such as attending a conference or course, getting equipment or resources, or support running an event to help students to go further with STEM.
For her prize, Lizz has chosen to build on the lessons from the Trek 2 Reconnect to reach more schools.
STEM Together is supporting her to create resource packs for classes, based on the earth science topics she covered in the trek. They are filled with things to build, activities to boost creativity and observational studies to carry out.
“What I do changes the world” was the motto for her trek and a lesson for the students she encountered. Through Future Shapers, the journey continues for her and the students she reaches.
STEM Together is calling for educators, community group members, or STEM professionals that support young people in Years 5-10 to be recognised for helping students build 21st Century skills.
Future Shapers prioritises applications from adults that support students from groups that need more representation in STEM. This includes students that identify as one or more of the following: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, female, from regional schools or from lower opportunity areas.
Applications close on 1 December 2023. Find out more and apply at csiro.au/futureshapers.