Science grant for remote school to observe distant stars

Published Thursday, 08 February, 2018 at 12:30 PM

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Traditional Indigenous knowledge of astronomy, modern science and a sky dome will combine in a special event at the small school of Bloomfield River State School in Far North Queensland.

Minister for Science Leeanne Enoch said Bloomfield River State School was one of 17 schools, community organisations and STEM-education agencies to share $160,000 in funding as part of the latest round of the Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grants program (R1, 2017/18).

Situated about 180 kilometres north of Cairns in the Wet Tropics, Bloomfield River State School is a small facility which includes the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal community and currently has a 100 per cent Indigenous enrolment.

“We’ve provided the school with a grant of more than $3000, which they’ll use to hire a portable planetarium,” Ms Enoch said.

“The aim of the portable planetarium – the Dream Dome – is to draw on a child’s innate curiosity and imagination by actively engaging them in the awesome power of science to help explain and predict the everyday world around us.

“Unfortunately many children start to drift away from science at the end of primary school, and we need to rectify this if we are ever going to achieve our vision of a knowledge economy in Queensland.”

The Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grants are designed to support scientists, researchers, science communicators, journalists and community groups to deliver science engagement and communication projects, events and activities that increase the profile of science in Queensland.

Bloomfield River State School Principal Robyn Farrands said there will be a community barbecue on the evening of 14 June, followed by a Tour of the Night Sky in the community of Wujal Wujal.

“This will be led by local company Night Sky Secrets, which specialises in tours featuring an Aboriginal perspective on the southern skies and viewing the deep sky – space outside our solar system – where we’ll look at star clusters, nebulae and galaxies,” Ms Farrands said.

She said the school endeavoured to link modern technologies with the cultural heritage of its students.

“By introducing them to Our Night Sky using modern technology, including the Dream Dome and night vision telescopes, our students will experience modern technology that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

“The tour of Our Night Sky will take place within the community so that not only parents but the wider community will be able to access the event and join us. In this way not only will our students experience STEM participation, but so too will their parents, peers, family members and community Elders.

“By connecting modern technology with cultural heritage and the knowledges of local clan groups we expect to increase the engagement of our community and family members with science activities. This in turn will increase the engagement of our students with science.”

Ms Farrands said as the world’s oldest continuous culture, Aboriginal people could make claim to be the world’s first astronomers.

“Astronomy plays a huge part in Aboriginal culture. For thousands of years, Aboriginal people used their knowledge of the night sky to understand, survive and live in harmony with the Australian landscape.”

Acting Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Christine Williams said the Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grants program was designed to stoke interest in science and get more people in the community involved in science activities and events.

“It’s all about hands-on science – showing the community the value of science and technology and encouraging our kids to consider STEM as future career paths,” Dr Williams said.

The Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grants program has awarded more than $780,000 to 82 recipients over the last four funding rounds.

Other recipients from round one, 2017-18 include:

  • Fifty Six Creations – $10,000 to run a special workshop teaching young people about the skills of the future, including computer science, STEM and entrepreneurship
  • Griffith University – a grant of $10,000 to create an immersive installation which will be showcased in public spaces throughout Queensland where the public will experience the importance of wetlands to the Great Barrier Reef
  • The University of Queensland – $10,000 to improve the reach of UQ’s SPARQ-ed program
  • Cairns and Far North Environment Centre – $10,000 to establish a MangroveWatch citizen science program in Cairns
  • Kingaroy State High School – $10,000 for a project involving a three-day camp for students at the Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) at the University of Queensland, where they will work with scientists using the very latest technologies
  • Queen’s Beach State School – $10,000 for a series of workshops in the Bowen and Whitsunday regions introducing students, educators and the wider community to the power of STEM, digital technologies, entrepreneurship and creativity
  • Toohey Forest Environment Education Centre – $9400 for its Zika Mozzie Seeker citizen project, involving high school students. The project will showcase the drug discovery pipeline through the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery
  • Coomera Rivers State School – $10,000 for their iDesign with STEAM project, aimed at primary school teachers and students, with an emphasis on the nexus between design and science and technology
  • Cairns Aquarium and Reef Research Centre Pty Ltd – $10,000 to create a Reef Rainforest Interpretive Centre at Cairns Aquarium
  • BirdLife Southern Queenslan – $10,000 for its Birds in Schools citizen science project which aims to improve native bird habitat and encourage a diversity of birds on school grounds
  • EDLP (trading as Coding Kids) has been awarded two grants – the firm will run coding workshops in the community of Thargomindah and its nearby communities ($9184) as well as in Charter Towers ($9500)
  • Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Cooperative – $9942 for its Robots, Drones and Sensors: Future Farming Masterclasses, a collaboration between the cooperative and Central Queensland University demonstrating how drones, robots and sensors can bring about big improvements in agriculture
  • North Peninsula Area State College – $9390 for its Science Extravaganza during 2018 National Science Week
  • Capalaba State College has received a $10,000 grant. It will use Humanoid Social Robot NAO to inspire and engage students, parents and teachers about robotics, science, innovation and technology
  • Rockhampton Special School – $9000 for its Special STEM project, enabling students with multiple disabilities to engage in and experience STEM

MEDIA: Ben Doyle 0437 859 987