Aboriginal Australia is considered the oldest sustainable continuing culture in the world. With more than 60,000 years of traditional knowledge, how do you go about sharing this with Aboriginal youth while at the same time preparing them for an increasingly STEM-focused world?
That’s the challenge the Koori STEM Camp has set out to address. As part of the government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programs (HEPPP), the recent three-day camp offered local Indigenous students “the opportunity to identify with their Aboriginal cultural heritage and its connection to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).”
As part of the camp, Devika Learning will be showing students the job possibilities and skills they can learn through STEM. As specialists in virtual and augmented reality, Devika Learning will be showing students how they can use this tech as a storytelling medium. Devika, alongside Wollongong Indigenous knowledge holder Jade Kennedy, will give students an intro to AR and VR before showing them how they can use tech as a modern way to tell traditional Indigenous stories. During their time at the UOW Koori STEM Camp participants will also learn about how Indigenous culture relates to STEM fields such as:
- Boomerangs and wind turbines
- Storytelling using digital media
- Sustainability in built environments
- Renewable energy and the natural environment
As with all Australian school students, STEM education is of vital importance. However, Indigenous students can sometimes have additional barriers to higher education imposed on them. Indigenous kids complete year 12 at significantly lower rates than their non-Indigenous peers (61.5% compared to 86.4% according to 2015 figures). While this gap is slowly closing, it’s still crucial we actively work towards bringing educational outcomes for Indigenous students on par with non-Indigenous students. The Koori STEM Camp can assist in this goal by developing students’ sense of identity, pride, connection and empowerment to modern STEM concepts and their applications today.
Australia’s Indigenous peoples have been applying science for millennia prior to European colonisation. Indigenous Australians had an advanced understanding of agricultural science (maximising the productivity of land while not overworking them), complex number systems, knowledge of botany that allowed them to create bush medicines, and an understanding of astronomy that allowed them to navigate and count time by the stars. Scientific practice is as much a part of Indigenous history and culture as it is in Western nations – and programs like the Koori STEM Camp allow Indigenous students to connect with their heritage while learning about STEM fields.