SMART Heads to Arnhem Land
Following on from its successful week of shows in Central Australia, the University of Newcastle's SMART program moved its touring science show up to the very top of the NT to perform for isolated communities in Arnhem Land.
Supported by the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA), and with a private plane at their disposal, the SMART team were able to visit the remote communities of Ramingining, Galiwin'ku (also known as Elko Island), Milingimbi, Gunbalanya and Croker Island to perform their popular Science@Home show for around 400 very excited pupils.
While tours to such remote locations are always very rewarding for both the schools and the presenters, they offer up very different conditions to the ones SMART normally experiences when presenting to schools in the footprint of the University. Unique challenges such as limitations on which goods can be transported by light aircraft and sporadic access to internet, phone and in the case of one school, water, shaped the show content and challenged the presenters to come up with innovative ways to explain science concepts in an entertaining way.
Tour scheduling is done round the availability of accommodation in each community with some areas requiring a one day fly-in fly-out visit and others able to offer the comfort of a 'donger' for the night. In the communities where the presenters were able to stay the night, their evenings were filled with requests from the local children to do more experiments and teach them to perform the science tricks themselves.
The SMART project is part of the University of Newcastle's Equity and Diversity Unit's AIM High program. This was the project's second visit to Arnhem Land as part of its joint venture with Engineers Australia, funded by Shell Australia, and SMART presenter Sarah Jane Judge's second visit to some of the communities.
"It was lovely to see so many familiar faces in the schools and for the kids to remember last year's SMART show and ask to see specific experiments again," said Sarah-Jane. "It is wonderful to think that Newcastle University is building a relationship with schools so far away and that maybe one day some of these kids might come to University because of the work we are doing with them now."