A landscape image of the sun setting over a large rock in Lake Mungo, in rural NSW. Photo: Paul Jones

Students connect to Country in inspiring school challenge

Students connect to Country in inspiring school challenge

Digital story competition helps students to understand relationship between science and Country

A new design competition will encourage primary school students to engage with Country and First Nations cultures and then share their experiences in a digital story.

Taking care of Country, which was launched at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Science Space last week (Thursday 13 June), is a school challenge inspired by the First Nations stories featured in the film The Earth Above: A Deep Time View of Australia’s Epic History.

The feature-length, full-dome planetarium film was produced by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), headquartered at UOW, with Deakin MotionLab in collaboration with First Nations communities and Science Space.

The challenge invites students from schools throughout the Illawarra and beyond to watch The Earth Above and then immerse themselves in their own Country. Their learnings, observations, and experiences in caring for Country will then be used as the inspiration for their own digital story.

A panel of experts will judge the entries with the major prize a visit to the winner’s school by CABAH’s inflatable planetarium dome for screenings of The Earth Above. There are a number of other prizes available.

More than 40 teachers throughout the region attended the challenge launch at Science Space, signing their schools up to the unique and inspiring competition.  

The pedagogy underpinning the challenge is shared by the work of CABAH Associate Investigator (AI) Dr Anthony McKnight, a Gomeroi, Awabakal, Yuin man who weaves spirit in science, and shares his teachings and deep connection with Country with educators and children.

Dr Tiffani Apps, Associate Investigator at CABAH, said the researchers hope the Taking care of Country challenge will inspire young students and teachers to connect with their own local area, communities and Country, investigate through a scientific lens and then bring this understanding together through action, capturing this process in a digital story to inspire others.

“We are thrilled to be encouraging young students and their teachers to engage with science and Country,” Dr Apps said. “We can’t wait to see the amazing digital stories that the students create.”

The challenge was created by CABAH AIs Dr Tiffani Apps and Dr Anthony McKnight with Chief Investigator Dr Shirley Agostinho, and post-doctoral researcher Lauren Knussen, all of whom are based in UOW’s School of Education.

The Earth Above explores Australia’s past 140,000 years, incorporating traditional and scientific knowledge to tell Australia’s epic story. It transports viewers to four locations: Girraween Lagoon on Larrakia and Wulna Country outside Darwin in the Northern Territory; Cloggs Cave on GunaiKurnai Country in Victoria’s East Gippsland region; Lake Mungo in NSW on the land of the Barkandji/Paakantyi, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutti people; and Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on the Great Barrier Reef, which is sacred to many, including the Dingaal community.

For more information or to find out how to get your school involved in the Taking Care of Country challenge, visit: https://epicaustralia.org.au/tea-school-challenge/

Main photo: The sun sets at Lake Mungo, in NSW, one of the four locations featured in The Earth Above