Kalkie State School shines in STEM project

Kalkie State School's Ryden Bauer holding examples of the seasonal weather calendars from other regions.

By Angela Norval

Students at Kalkie State School were recognised for their outstanding work in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at a national virtual event.

Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith hosted Future You 2 You at Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.

It featured eight primary schools across Australia and showcased Year 3 to 6 students who have been involved in addressing challenges in their school and local communities using STEM-related skills.

A team of students at Kalkie State School are collating data to create a First Nations weather calendar, similar to that prepared by CSIRO and stored on the Bureau of Meteorology site.

The students are engaging with First Nations scientists and exploring drone and other high-interest technology.

It all started last year when the students entered a competition through Indigital.

They had to design a preferred future, using the knowledge of First Nations people to guide their decisions.

They looked for information about traditional housing, farming and lifestyle but found that it hadn’t been properly archived in our area.

Despite a thorough search they couldn’t really turn up much information and the children were especially concerned about the excavation and relocation of the Burnett River Rocks – a huge lithograph from the middle of our town.

They felt it was a crime that such an important source of information had been cut up and distributed across the world.

While they couldn’t do anything to solve that, they looked for a problem they could work on and that is when, with supervising teacher Samantha Ephraims, they decided to do something about Bundaberg’s lack of a First Nations seasonal weather calendar.

Professor Harvey-Smith said Australia’s future was bright based on the outstanding projects and complex challenges these students addressed.

“We are extremely impressed with the calibre of our younger generation and their ability to work on real issues that affect their local environment and communities; it goes to show how crucial STEM skills are to solving some of the biggest challenges facing our world today, and into the future,” he said.

“We’ve seen everything from biodiversity, water recycling and digital culture addressed in these projects.

“Kalkie State School’s project to create a First Nations weather calendar is a phenomenal example of what can be achieved through the application of STEM skills.

“We are thrilled our younger generation can experience first-hand the power and wide-ranging benefits of STEM.”

Ms Ephraims said children were the best hope at making positive changes in the world.

“They have such great creativity and passion and when they work together, big things can happen,” she said.

“When using science and technology in creative ways means that anything is possible, why wouldn’t we encourage our kids to think big?

“It is wonderful to see the children excited to think that their efforts could lead to real change in our area.

“The kids are reaching out to community to help them solve this problem and properly archive the knowledge we have.”

This event was part of a national Future You initiative that aimed to increase girls’ participation in STEM by highlighting STEM-skilled career opportunities and challenging stereotypes through fun characters, animations, games and information.

“We know the 8 to 12-year-old age group is critical to longer term interest in STEM careers,” Professor Harvey-Smith said.

“The Future You platform was designed to engage these children and excite them with the vast career options that require STEM skills and more importantly, to show that these jobs are for everyone.

“The perception that some STEM fields are a better fit for boys is one of the biggest barriers to girls participating and pursuing STEM studies and careers.

“We need to overcome these stereotypes early and show all children in this age group that STEM is an exciting and rewarding career for everyone.”

Along with Professor Harvey-Smith, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley and a number of STEM professionals attended the Future You 2 You event.

The children participated in a live question and answer with some of Australia’s best scientists, technologists and engineers who work to solve similar challenges in their everyday career.

Asked what a First Nations weather calendar was, Year 6 student Ryden Bauer said it recorded when it rained and how to tell when storms were expected.

“It tells us about the animals, plants and weather that happens in certain months and seasons,” Ryden said.

“It uses the cultural words from nearby – where they were made.

“It would be good to have it because of all the culture that has been lost, so it would be good to keep the information for the future.

“Being involved in STEM, I like engineering the best – you can design things that aren’t yet real.

“You get to use your creativity and it helps it thrive in your brain.

“It would be good to use later on – like if you want to be an architect or a mechanic or a designer.

“Personally I want to be an engineer that works with robots.

“They would help people with their problems – redesign wheelchairs, encourage them, make life easier.”