School of Education / School of Science
In order to supply a future Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce, Australia needs to engage its most capable and gifted secondary students in quality STEM learning, either within school or through extra-curricular opportunities, so that they will continue into STEM-based tertiary degrees. High-achieving students in rural communities may face additional barriers to STEM learning that can limit their ability to pursue advanced STEM studies and occupations. This small-scale research project sought to explore a group of gifted lower secondary students’ engagement and experiences in a STEM programme designed around a local rural knowledge model as reported by Avery (2013), which uses local knowledge as a vehicle for science learning. This multi-method study was conducted with 26 students years 7 and 8 in a rural school. Information about students’ general science class experiences were collected quantitatively. These experiences contrasted the local rural knowledge programme, where the students worked with an ecologist and experienced science educators to rehabilitate small plots of damaged land close to the school site. Qualitative data were collected throughout the programme to determine its influence on students’ engagement and learning in STEM. The research found that the local rural knowledge model enhanced students’ engagement in STEM learning and they felt that they retained knowledge better as a result of the authentic learning experience. Students also engaged the wider community in the process, leading to broader translation of the STEM learning.
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