Inquiry program increases STEM participation

We’re at Research Conference 2019, and I’m
joined by Caja Gilbert, a senior researcher at CSIRO. She’s joining me to discuss her
poster presentation for this year’s conference. The project that I’m presenting here at
ACER is the I2S2 program, which is actually part of a broader Indigenous STEM education
project that has been funded by BHP Foundation. So I2S2 is for students in Years 5-9 and what
they do is, CSIRO go into the, work with the schools to run inquiries for Years 5-9 and
the focus is on the inquiry process, but also the integration of the Indigenous knowledge
with western knowledge. And they’ve developed a whole resource kit so that teaches can literally
just go and get whatever they need. There’s links to the Australian Curriculum, there’s
resources, there’s background information and then it steps you through the whole process.
I think, well, one of the main aims of this program is to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students interested in STEM and to be choosing those STEM careers. So, what we’ve
seen is that from the programs that we’re running, especially I2S2 in this case, they
are actually really enjoying the inquiry process and starting to be more interested in STEM
subjects. So they’re choosing the STEM subjects in the later years.
Another great thing about this program is that they have program coordinators that actually
go into the schools and work with the teachers and the Aboriginal education officers to,
I guess, build up their confidence and capacity in terms of teaching more cultural stuff.
Which, from what we’ve heard, has worked very well.
For example, I went up to a school last year who had just run one of our inquiries which
is called ‘what’s cooking?’ And looking at, so they cooked different things, the students
cooked different vegetables and things in foil and they were testing which cooked the
fastest. And then the whole thing culminated in a group, in a community event where there
were elders and community members and the students actually cooked for all their families.
And it was a really great way for the students to share what they had known, what they’d
learnt and for the community to share in that, and to celebrate it.

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