Posted on, 9th December 2016

FAR Northern schoolchildren are putting a modern twist on ancient Aboriginal traditions under a program that has earned them national recognition.

Gordonvale State High School will today receive $10,000 as the winning school in the inaugural Indigenous STEM Education Awards, which celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievements in the STEM field.

Head of Science at Gordonvale State High School Markus Honnef with students Jaylen Toleafoa 14, Mia Sugiatmaja 13 and Aaliyah Brumley 14 with their fire making machine PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

“It’s probably one of the biggest awards we’ve won, so we’re extremely thrilled,” said acting head of the science department Markus Honnef.

“Students have discovered that indigenous Australians used the same science skills thousands of years ago when they noticed patterns and trends.

“They also conducted science inquiry skills, such as questioning, predicting, planning, analysing and evaluating.”

The national awards are part of the Indigenous STEM Education Project, which is funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation and delivered by CSIRO with the aim of increasing indigenous participation in STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up about 28 per cent of students at Gordonvale State High, where there is a strong focus on STEM.

CSIRO’s project director Therese Postma said judges were impressed by Gordonvale’s implementation of the program.

“They consulted with local indigenous elders and students about participating in the program,” she said.

“What was different about the school to others that applied is they got strong student participation right from the start.

“They also had strong community buy in as well… bringing to light some of the inquiry content in terms of how that applies to the local indigenous community – it makes it really relevant.”

Every student in Years 8 and 9 at Gordonvale State High took part in the program, exploring scientific theories such as energy transfer through hands-on activities like Aboriginal fire-making.

“It increased participation in class activity, it made the link for students between indigenous and western science, and students were actually excited because it was something they could relate to,” said Mr Honnef.

The school will use the prize money to buy iPads to document experiments and access STEM apps.

The other award winners will be announced at a ceremony in Gordonvale today.

[See original article here]

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