National Indigenous Science Education Program
LEAP–NISEP continues to develop and provide high-quality activities for a range of school, community and tertiary sector partners
Learning, Education, Aspiration and Participation (LEAP) – National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) is Macquarie University’s outreach program that engages with schools and communities in metropolitan and rural low socio economic regions. Our aims are to stimulate an interest in science and secondary and tertiary education, especially by Indigenous youth, in a community-inclusive manner. LEAP–NISEP provides a peer-supported learning program delivered on school and university campuses and at partner organisations across NSW and nationally.
- Macquarie University
- Charles Sturt University
- Edith Cowan University
- Hotspots and Firesticks Program
- Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council
- Ullugundahi Elders Association
- Dharug Elders
- Wirradjuri Elders
- Sydney Olympic Park Authority
- Redfern Community Centre
- Glebe Youth Services
- Australian Museum
- Web Video Productions
- National Science Week Australia
- Inspiring Australia
- Dusseldorp Forum.
Increasing Indigenous participation in higher education is one of the crucial objectives of LEAP–NISEP. The Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education, released in 2008, named Indigenous Australians among the three most disadvantaged groups in Australian higher education. LEAP–NISEP key goals are: to increase the level of engagement with science within rural and regional communities with high Indigenous populations, and increase confidence in science, especially by Indigenous youth; communicate the relevance of science and promote continuing involvement in science through secondary and tertiary education; and develop communities of practice for sustainability of science outreach.
LEAP–NISEP provides positive Aboriginal and rural student role models for younger students that broaden their experience of Aboriginal student excellence, and that allow peer-supported learning.
LEAP–NISEP has been receiving HEPPP funding since 2011 to meet these objectives. It is also supported through Inspiring Australia funding.
NISEP currently addresses these aims through the following
- Interactive science shows and expos. Indigenous students are placed in leadership roles as they demonstrate hands on chemistry, biology and microbiology activities to their peers.
- Macquarie University Open Day. Senior students are given the opportunity to attend the university open day and be exposed to further education options available.
- Macquarie University Science Experience. Three days of science activities over a range of disciplines held on campus, promoting science and providing information for further study. Indigenous senior secondary students take leadership roles.
- Maclean (Yaegl) Cultural Immersion Program. In collaboration with Yaegl community Elders and Maclean High School, a series of excursions have been developed integrating local Indigenous knowledge within the school curriculum.
LEAP–NISEP has provided face-to-face activities to over 2,500 people, involving over 100 student volunteers each year and an additional 100 teachers and community members. The activities involve training secondary school students to deliver a range of science-based practical activities alongside Macquarie University students and academics to all of the schools’ Year 7 and special education students. LEAP–NISEP runs science expo activities over several days annually at nine high school campuses, building on a long-term engagement with those schools.
Anonymous surveys of secondary student demonstrators are conducted before and after most LEAP–NISEP events, along with surveys of teachers and Aboriginal Education Officers (AEOs) one or two months post-event to measure the impacts of these activities. The student surveys always identify increased confidence and interest in science and further education, while the teacher/AEO surveys consistently note improvements in confidence, motivation and an overall interest in study and further education of these students. This is supported in survey findings, where 90 per cent of parents reported that LEAP–NISEP activities have influenced their child’s confidence in their academic abilities and 100 per cent of teachers reported that NISEP activities have influenced students’ engagement with science classes.
The findings suggest the program is inspiring greater engagement with school activities, and that the program is raising ambitions, specifically with regard to higher education. There is evidence the program is building capacity, specifically with regard to presentation skills, teamwork skills and increased confidence. This both supports students’ schooling and provides some of the long-term skills required by independent learners in higher education. The students identified a number of key components of the program in effecting the positive changes described: the ‘hands-on’, informal structure, the direct feeling of being ‘trusted’ and ‘involved’, and the inspiring influence of mentors, both as team members and Macquarie student volunteers.
LEAP–NISEP has developed new relationships with schools and communities such that our activities have now engaged a truly national audience. LEAP–NISEP have achieved this not just by running programs internally, but by spreading the NISEP model of engagement to enthusiastic new partners across the country. These partners have since gone on to develop and run their own local programs in cooperation with schools and Indigenous communities in Western Australia and regional NSW. The initiatives described here represent a considerable effort in professional development, where teachers and community members are trained and inspired whilst attending LEAP–NISEP outreach activities with their student volunteers. The partnership works because:
- partnerships were developed after reaching consensus on
shared objectives of the program
- there is mutual trust and respect between partners with a shared commitment towards Indigenous students
- it works directly with Indigenous communities in Western Australia and regional NSW to make the program sustainable.
In 2015, LEAP–NISEP hopes to build sustainable growth through the development of new partnerships, strengthen relationships with existing partners, and expand its range of science outreach activities. This will be achieved with greater media presence in the form of a website, social media and use of a consistent logo and brand, which will attract a larger national audience and empower existing partners. LEAP–NISEP will also incorporate partner schemes such as the Opening Real Science scheme and the Professional and Community Engagement program at Macquarie University to increase student mentoring and science outreach activity capabilities.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.