The rehabilitation of country in North Western Australia: Regional lower secondary students working with Scientists out in the field

Year: 2017

Author: Lummis, Geoffrey, Marris, Julia, Slater, Eileen, Fitzgerald, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Mining is a major contributor to the Western Australian economy; however, one of the imperative political and sustainability issues facing the State is that of the rehabilitation of country. Consistent with the 'Cleaner Environment Plan' (Australian Government, 2016), this project aimed to instil land care values and behaviours in secondary school student. Over a two-year period a group of regional lower secondary students worked with scientists, educators and an Aboriginal Elder to rehabilitate a small section of country. This case study used a qualitative approach to evaluate the processes of designing and implementing the practical field-centred science project, where the students worked collaboratively in small groups to repair a plot on the damaged site in an effort to enhance the local ecosystem. Importantly, the students shared conversations with an Aboriginal Elder during their field trips covering the importance of country. The students were shown how to identify animal tracks and edible local plants, as well as hearing stories about Aboriginal culture and its transition into contemporary contexts alongside authentic science. Data from student focus groups suggested that fieldwork guided by scientists and the Aboriginal Elder was a highly engaging approach to learning about the environment and rehabilitation. They recognised links between science, culture and community interest in rehabilitation, consistent with UNESCO's pillars of sustainability (2005). In addition, the lower secondary students started to express interest in using the authentic cultural-scientific processes to expand their learning in other applied activities in geology, physics and biology.