Scientists in Schools

Science meets Indigenous culture

Download Showcase
(PDF, 0.49MB)

  • Arnold Von Senden, Indigenous Cultural Advisor, MacFarlane Primary School, Katherine, NT
  • Glenn Wightman, Biodiversity Conservation, Northern Territory Government
Most of Glenn's ethno biological research involves working with senior Aboriginal elders recording important bio-cultural knowledge. He enjoys visiting MacFarlane Primary School where he discovers what the younger generations know and are interested in learning.

Each class at MacFarlane Primary School participates in a valuable three week block of Indigenous cultural learning. Arnold and his wife Levina, both local Indigenous community members, collaboratively plan with teachers to create activities and excursions where students learn about Indigenous customs, language, music and hunting familiar to the Katherine region. They incorporate Glenn into their lessons whenever he is travelling through Katherine on his way to do field work.

Glenn and Arnold address the students

With Glenn’s help, students identified plants, researching their scientific and indigenous names and uses, and discussed local Aboriginal knowledge of the plants and animals. After walking in the bush around the school, students identified the plants, creating a botanical journal of the information. This year the school prioritised funds in order to plant a bush tucker garden with students planting and caring for the garden.

Glenn’s class discussions range from topics about his work to the importance of school and learning. He enjoys the opportunity to listen to the students’ stories about the biggest snake or fish they have encountered. “It’s a good model for other schools, but it actually works because of the passion and commitment of the individuals. You can't model that, people either have it or not,” he explains.

Despite his busy schedule, Glenn’s enthusiasm for the school visits means he regularly makes time to drop by. He encourages others to join the Scientists in Schools program, “SiS is easy to do, it is highly rewarding and it can be done to suit your work load and expertise. Science is easy to involve young people and it works well in both classroom and outdoor scenarios.”