Linda feels proud to provide science experiences to Indigenous youth

01 June 2021

When CQUniversity STEM Education lead Dr Linda Pfeiffer sees Indigenous youngsters light up at with the possibilities of where science can take them' she can't help but feel a sense of pride.

Linda coordinates the delivery of CQUni's Science' Technology' Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program and is especially fond of her role in the Yallarm (place of shells) STEM Camp' an annual camp for Gladstone region Year 8 students.

She said projects like the Yallarm STEM Camp' which is delivered in partnership with Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre (BIEEC) and with major industry sponsorship and co-delivery from Monadelphous' were vital for Indigenous youth education and science in general.

"There is a critical shortage of STEM skilled workers in Australia and there is a high need for future skills'"

she said.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have an ongoing relationship with science and engineering and were the first scientists.

"It is important to teach Indigenous kids about their history and culture so that they realise that they can have a future career in STEM fields."

Through the Yallarm STEM Camp' students are exposed to real-world hands-on STEM experiences with strong links to the land and the sea. Local Elders have been involved in the design and development of the programs so that the kids obtain cultural experiences. Guests attended the program to talk with the kids about culture' STEM and careers.

"Teaching STEM involves inquiry learning. The teaching involved in the programs involves the kid's problem solving and working together to solve challenges. The teaching is student-centred and mostly team-based'"

she said.

"I feel very proud when the kids get excited about the environment' STEM and their culture. Listening to some of the guest speakers talk about their journeys to become engineers through programs is very inspiring and humbling.

She said the youth responded favourably to the Yallarm STEM Camp. A second STEM program called Buraligim Weiber (place of learning)' was developed last year and will be implemented this year with the support of Australia Pacific LNG. The program is for Year 3 and Year 4 Indigenous students in Gladstone who will be attending STEM Central every Thursday for school terms 3 and 4 in 2021 and in 2022.

"We haven't had both the yallarm STEM Camp and the Buraligim Weiber programs long enough to determine the individual impact these have on the participants' but during Yallarm this year on Facing Island we participated in Didirri time (deep listening) and it was very moving.

"At the end of the Yallarm Camp the kids were asked to sum up their day in one word and we were surprised by the responses: "cultural"' "connected"' "life-changing" were some of the responses'"

she said.

Linda said National Reconciliation Week meant a lot to her as an educator.

"Indigenous education is critical to understanding reconciliation. Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians need to learn about Indigenous culture and history and the importance in education. That is why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives is one of the three cross curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum."