John Townley

Cecil Andrews College, WA

Teaching Fellow

Too many students were dropping high-level STEM subjects at Cecil Andrews College, and STEM Coordinator John Townley was determined that should change.

He created a vibrant robotics program at his school, with a network of 12 other schools all now running Robotics Clubs and competing in FIRST Robotics’ competitions. His network includes Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School in the Great Victoria Desert.

The inter-school partnership between the remote and city schools is based on inclusion of Aboriginal cultural perspectives in STEM learning. He saw that culture was central to Indigenous young people’s learning, and he thought about how to harness it.

The result: Two-Way STEAM, which integrates Noongar culture and language with hands-on engineering. The first project is construction of remote-controlled racing cars. Co-taught by Elders, students learn about components, develop software skills, and build a track that embodies the six seasons recognised by Noongar people.

What began as a lunchtime activity is now timetabled and making such an impact that John is actively working with other schools to enhance their capacity in STEM teaching.