Inquiry program increases STEM participation

CSIRO's Caja Gilbert sat down with Teacher at Research Conference 2019 to discuss how the inquiry-based program, Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students (known as I2S2), is encouraging Indigenous students to choose STEM subjects in secondary school.

Her poster presentation, Evaluation I2S2: An inquiry based Indigenous Science program for Years 5 to 9, shares an overview of the program, and some initial findings and conclusions.

‘So, I2S2 is for students in Years 5-9, and what they do is, CSIRO … work with the schools to run inquiries for Years 5-9 and the focus is on the inquiry process, but also the integration of the Indigenous knowledge with western knowledge,' Gilbert tells Teacher.

‘And they've developed a whole resource kit so that teaches can literally just go and get whatever they need. There's links to the Australian Curriculum, there's resources, there's background information …'

The I2S2 program is part of a wider Indigenous STEM Education project implemented by CSIRO which aims to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in all aspects of STEM.

I2S2 is one of the six programs that form part of this project, with the other programs targeting students at different ages and stages in their learning – from primary school to tertiary education.

‘One of the main aims of this program is to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students interested in STEM and to be choosing those STEM careers,' Gilbert shares.

‘So, what we've seen is that from the programs that we're running, especially I2S2 in this case, they are actually really enjoying the inquiry process and starting to be more interested in STEM subjects. So they're choosing the STEM subjects in the later years.'


Caja Gilbert says the I2S2 program has assisted in encouraging Indigenous students to consider studying a STEM subject in the later years of school.

In your school context, what strategies have you implemented to increase interest in STEM subjects and careers, particularly for senior secondary students? How are you measuring their success?

To find out more about I2S2, view the outline from ACER’s Research Conference proceedings here.