Areyonga School is a STEM success story

Remote Areyonga School has won the School Award category of the coveted 2018 Indigenous STEM Awards. The CSIRO accolade celebrates the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The School Award is reserved for schools that demonstrate leadership in STEM education. The 32 students at Areyonga School all undertake STEM programs, which includes modifications to accommodate the early years’ class.

Principal Jonathon Fernando said STEM is taught in the classroom, and also applied in the context of On Country excursions with Aboriginal Elders.

“Students are explicitly taught key scientific concepts in the classroom, and twice each term they go out on country to deepen their understanding and knowledge of traditional views and ways of thinking,” he said.

“On one excursion they monitored the health of a waterhole by microscopically examining water animals and bugs, but they also reflected on their culture by sitting at a place where their ancestors had sat and learnt.

“The Indigenous STEM education project is a fantastic initiative that allows educators, and even the students, to break away from the ‘white fella in a lab coat’ stereotype, particularly when it comes to science.

“Our strong STEM program is supported by Tangentyere Council’s Land and Learning program, which implements the CSIRO Science Pathways in Remote Communities project. This gives our students a platform to build on as they transition to boarding school, where they can expand their understanding of STEM and move into STEM-related careers.”

The award is the first major science prize won by the school, and Mr Fernando believes it will encourage other isolated schools to earn the honour.

“We are extremely humbled to have won this award. Being a remote school makes it even more special and significant. I feel our win will inspire other remote schools, who are already doing amazing things in STEM, to try and win the award and build on their programs,” he said.

“When the CSIRO phoned to pass on the news of our achievement, our assistant teacher and former principal Tarna Andrews — who has taught in the school for over 37 years — was so elated that she went dancing into the classrooms to notify the students.”

An award of $10,000 was presented to the school at a ceremony today.

Areyonga CSIRO Award

Last updated: 07 March 2019