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NAIDOC Week: STEM Toolkit

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2024 is “Keep the fire burning! Blak, loud and proud”. It’s a proud celebration of the resilient spirit of First Nations people and knowledge and culture they’ve passed down through thousands of generations. (For more information about NAIDOC Week, visit the official NAIDOC Week website.)

NAIDOC Week calls on all of us — particularly educators — to renew our commitment to recognise and preserve First Nations cultural heritage in our work. If you’re eager for ideas, early STEM education is ripe with opportunities to embed First Nations perspectives by exploring First Nations’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematical wisdom with children.

As a starting point, below are ideas and resources for exploring First Nations STEM culture and knowledge within your service or classroom. (You can also join our Facebook group “Early STEM Educators Network” to exchange ideas and questions with other educators about embedding First Nations STEM perspectives in your setting!)

We recommend reading the book “Country Tells Us When…”, written and illustrated by Tsheena Cooper, Mary Dann, Dalisa Pigram-Ross, and Sheree Ford. This book shares the knowledge of the Yawuru people, the traditional owners of the land and waters in and around Rubibi (the town of Broome). The book explores the different seasons in the area. Instead of the Western perspective of four seasons, the Yawuru people recognise six different seasons. Through illustrations depicting the environments around the Kimberley region and descriptive language (in English and Yawuru), we learn how the Yawuru people use their senses to recognise seasons and live connected to Country.

“Country Tells Us When…” is a great resource to extend children’s STEM explorations on seasons:

🔥 Take the children outside and discuss how the climates feel using their five senses. What does the weather feel like on their skin? What does it smell like at different times of the year? They could share the animals they might see and hear. You can even have your children become meteorologists and keep a calendar to note down their findings over time! Compare these observations to the illustrations and words in the book.

🔥 Explore the Western seasons in your area. Ask the children to discuss what summer, winter, spring, and autumn look like in your local area. How does it differ to portrayals of seasons in books (such as “Country Tells Us When”), movies, or television shows? Does summer look the same everywhere? 

Country Tell Us When book

🔥 Invite the children to research First Nations seasons in your area or nearby where this information is available using the Bureau of Meteorology’s resource, which compares different seasons. For example, ask your children to compare the Western summer to the name and weather conditions of the same time period in the Miriwoong calendar.

🔥 Explore seasonal foods in your area with the children. What is local and available? If appropriate to your setting, you can have the children taste the different seasonal foods. If you have a bush tucker garden, encourage the children to match the seasonal foods in the garden to the First Nations seasons.

🔥 Invite the children to compare the different ways in which seasons are recognised in your town or suburb. For example, is there a big event that occurs at a certain time every year in your area, like large Lunar New Year celebrations, an annual agricultural show, or a local parade? Encourage the children to make a list of the important events in your area and create a calendar.  

🔥 Explore other “ways of knowing” when something is changing, which requires the use of your senses. For example, you flip pancakes when bubbles appear, turn off the tap when the jug is getting full, or use umbrellas when it’s raining.

🔥 Play a reading of “Country Tells Us When…” in the Yawuru language.

In your service or classroom, engage with stories, ideas, ECE resources, and information created by First Nations people.

🟠 As a starting point, refer to and explore this list of First Nations organisations working in and around the early childhood education space, including: DeadlyScience, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, The Koori Curriculum, Yarn Strong Sista, and Narragunnawali.

🟠 Often when looking at embedding First Nations perspectives, services look to connect with their local community and Elders. This is a fantastic idea, but it also requires respectful and thoughtful engagement, especially if this is the first time you’re reaching out. Common Ground has developed this resource, which can help you in your efforts to develop these meaningful connections.

🟠 Listen to the ABC Podcast series: “Little Yarns that tells the story of how Yawuru people read the seasons. The series has been developed specifically for preschoolers and adults to listen to together. Many of the episodes have themes that can be related to or used as a springboard for STEM explorations. You can read more about the podcast here.

The organisations listed above are a great starting point for learning about how you can embed First Nations perspectives in your service or classroom. To supplement this learning, browse and watch Little Scientists’ previous online workshop recordings, which showcase practical strategies for educators to explore First Nations perspectives through a early STEM lens specifically:

Develop your STEM skills with our pedagogy-based STEM PD:

Facebook Group: Little Scientists Early STEM Educators Network
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