Local Collaboration to Grow the Seeds of STEM Investment from School and Beyond

Michael Joseph Donovan

Abstract


How to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and disciplines is a question being argued across many educational forums. From the examination of the opinions of Aboriginal high school students in a PhD thesis, Aboriginal students stated that they follow teachers, not content. Relationship is one of the key foundations of working with Aboriginal students. Many educational pedagogical theorists argue the significance of the teacher-student relationship and the gaining of an understanding about all students to engage students to their education. So, what is important or different about the relationship between Aboriginal students and their teachers? The Aboriginal student participants in this study reinforced the importance of relationship in context to an Aboriginal student standpoint. Where the Aboriginal student and their Indigeneity is at the centre of the relationship and mandating that the teachers’ pedagogical practices need to embrace them.

Aboriginal high school students from a variety of diverse socio-economic, cultural and geographical areas across New South Wales (NSW) were asked about what aspects of their schools, teachers and curriculum that engaged them to their education. The Aboriginal students stated that connecting with teachers, engaging with their culture and basing their learning in real world understandings are key to initiating their learning including engaging with STEM. The Aboriginal students’ standpoint was based on their Aboriginality and for many non-Aboriginal teachers gaining an understanding from an Aboriginal standpoint was culturally foreign. Through teachers embedding aspects of Aboriginal cultural practice into their curriculum and engaging with examples of cultural relevance will allow for seeds of scientific inquiry so Aboriginal students’ STEM discoveries can be nurtured into STEM careers and fields of study.

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