• Parnngurr Community School
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Integrated Curriculum/Project Based Learning

This recently developed CSIRO project is not a new pedagogy but one that has gained some new favour recently in working to engage students in learning that is holistic and linked to real life. This is especially important for students whose language and cultural background has meant that school learning has a disconnect with their real lives. The CSIRO Science Pathways project aims to address this disconnect.

Two-way Science acknowledges the value of two separate knowledge systems which uses the student strength in one system to inform education in the other. In this, Traditional Owners (TOs) are given the opportunity to lead education activities and that this knowledge is valued per se and then linked and added to with western knowledge. Students are more likely to engage in schooling where their culture and knowledge system are valued and see their own people leading elements of their learning. This confidence and belief provides the platform for building western knowledge, incorporating western science around which HASS, Arts and Technologies learning is constructed in ‘real life’ experiences and activities through regular field trips for ‘Learning on Country’ (LoC).

Science Pathways has produced over 600 pages of resources for students of all age groups that lead teachers and Martu through a process for combining the deep Parnngurr traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) with western science and other learning areas. They also show how Martu and teachers can work together effectively to empower Martu as educators and to value the cultural knowledge in a form of genuine ‘two-way learning’.

These resources are set out in topics and units with activities for LoC and classroom activities. As well as Science they introduce and reinforce oral language in both Martu and SAE, reading and writing, and a range of ‘real life’ numeracy activities.

The Science Pathways resources provide detailed tables of activities, tasks, and their direct links to the WA Science curriculum. Science Pathways is currently developing a series of assessment tasks that will support teachers in making judgements about student Achievement Standards. These will provide a model for teachers to develop their own assessment tasks in the other learning areas.

The Science Pathways resources provide for forward planning of the learning in which the TOs will engage the students. However, the resources also emphasise that TO teaching means that, TOs when ‘on-country’ have the flexibility to engage the students in whatever learning takes priority regardless of prior planning. If this element is not available to them when on their own country with their own children, they will not become equal partners in the school. This means that teachers must be flexible and open to ‘backwards planning’. Knowing the curriculum thoroughly is vital for teachers to respond to unplanned learning and being able to use this for linking to western learning where possible. For teachers, this means knowing the Science Content Descriptors AND those of the subjects they are integrating.

Two-way Science was first introduced to the school at the beginning of Term 2 2017 so it is still developing in understanding by teachers and Martu. To date, it is proving a highly engaging strategy.