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Spearheading science at Townsville High School

Students investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tools

Year 7 students at Townsville State High School have been investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tools, using high-level science inquiry skills to examine the advantage spear throwers give in survival.

As a part of their science unit on physics and levers, students are learning from cultural expert Les Tanner. With their science teacher Braden Askin, they have been undertaking a hands-on inquiry-based project, to examine the science of spear throwers.

Townsville highschool teacher Braden Askin
Townsville state high school teacher Braden Askin

About the program

Students started by investigating levers by looking at dog ball throwers. They then linked their findings on how levers work and the advancement of cultural applications by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, practicing using a woomera and throwing spears with Les, and comparing and contrasting this with using a dog ball thrower.

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“They are also looking forward to future inquiry unit in Year 8 looking at geology and suitable types of rocks to use as axe heads and for other tools,” says Braden.

“They will investigate generating heat energy through friction, using different types of timbers, and finally in Year 9 investigate how burning land can aid in the germination of seeds and early agricultural knowledge,” he says.

Value to Townsville High School science students

“The value this brings to Year 7s comes through providing a different method to learning and a hands-on approach.

“Our school has diverse cultures, and learning science through an Indigenous perspective allows students to understand and appreciate why this knowledge is necessary,” says Braden.

Julian, a Year 7 Townsville High School science student, says learning historical science “gives more details and a completely different perspective”.

“We can learn more about other cultures and the daily use of science.”

“Students learn more out of fun activities,” says cultural expert Les Tanner.

“Teaching part of my culture to young people is great. It’s great to be able to connect the school to the community, bring people together to learn from each other.”

Townsville Highstudents , students are learning from cultural expert Les Tanner
Townsville high school science students, learning from cultural expert Les Tanner

Professional development for teachers

The professional development teachers do with the CSIRO includes practicing the hands-on activity and understanding the exact links between the Indigenous culture and the Australian Curriculum.

Teachers delve deeper into how cultural knowledge aligns with the science content they teach, and how they can represent this through scientific investigations.

These initiatives are part of the CSIRO’s Indigenous Science Students program that embeds Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum and increase student engagement and achievement in science.

It also promotes understanding of cultural considerations and develops students’ critical thinking skills and interest in STEM.

To find out more about the program check out the CSIRO web page.

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