Award win for remote STEM

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A 30-year veteran educator based at remote Ntaria School has won the Teacher Award in the CSIRO’s 2019 Indigenous STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Awards.

Makhdoom Bhatti claimed the national prize for using STEM to help overcome students’ literacy and numeracy obstacles, and by applying the principles of Aboriginal and Western Science to promote an understanding of STEM principles.

The P-12 teacher, who has implemented the CSIRO’s Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students program, also devised Science Week.

“The Science Week comprised activities run by the school’s teachers, and for the first time, a team of CSIRO scientists,” he said.

“I target activities in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Technology and Mathematics because they reflect my own fields of interest, and allow me to contribute to the education of these students in a meaningful way using my own experiences.

“I’ve always been interested in studying science, and growing up in a remote community overseas I faced the practical hurdles arising from lack of access to science education. The students in Hermannsburg encounter similar challenges.”

Mr Bhatti integrates Western and Indigenous STEM perspectives into the curriculum.

“Aboriginal people have been living here for more than 50 thousand years, and they have a nomenclature for plants and animals in their Western Arrarnta language,” he said.

“Women rangers and Elders teach the students the medicinal purposes of plants in bush classes, and through this unified learning the students acquire botanical knowledge in their own language, complemented by Western science alternatives.

“Our students also learn stories from the Elders about astronomy, floods, rains and droughts. The entire community attends a star gazing night to look at the stars and the planets through a telescope, and learn about astronomy.

“I feel very proud to work with the local Elders, rangers and the community to help and promote the teaching and the learning process.

“Over the past five years — despite having a limited scientific vocabulary — the students have learned many scientific principles through Science Club and Science Week. They are engaged in hands-on activities designed to help them inquire and problem solve.”

Mr Bhatti was astonished to learn he had become a Teacher Award finalist.

“It was even more shocking to be told that I had won,” he said. “It is a very humbling experience, and it’s a win not only for me, but for my colleagues, my community and my family.

“The school and the local community were very happy and proud about the recognition, and we had an event at school to celebrate the occasion.

“I hope to build on what we’ve achieved, get more funding and resources for STEM education, and encourage a heavier emphasis on science as a crucial part of teaching in remote and rural societies.”

Award win for remote STEM

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