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The impact of a CALM Bush Ranger Cadet Group on learning within two schools in Western Australia

Project Title

The impact of a CALM Bush Ranger Cadet Group on learning within two schools in Western Australia

Project Coordinators

Dr Sandra Frid
Research Assistants - Tania Broadley, Melanie Smith

Period

2007-2008

Funding Agency SiMERR WA

Background

The SiMERR National Survey (Lyons, Cooksey, Panizzon, Parnell & Pegg, 2006) noted that "science teachers in non-metropolitan schools indicated a significantly higher level of unmet need for alternative activities to suit gifted and talented, special needs and Indigenous students than did their metropolitan colleagues" (p. vii). Parents in remote areas were also concerned about whether their children had access to a good range of learning experiences. The introduction and continuation of CALM (Conservation and Land Management) Bush Ranger Cadet groups might meet some of these expressed needs.

CALM Bush Ranger Cadet groups have had a history of successful engagement with schools since their inception in 1998. They have given more than 7000 young people opportunities to learn about conservation and biodiversity, and to develop both academically and personally. It is suggested that such groups can have a significant influence on student learning, especially in the content area of science, as well as motivating and engaging students with school in a wider sense.

Description

This project aimed to evaluate the impact of the introduction of a CALM Bush Ranger Cadet group into a school community. The impact on the school was to be viewed in a broad general sense by student attendance, selection of science subjects, commitment of students to the Bush Ranger scheme, and the synchronisation of Bush Ranger activities with local community expectations. There was a specific focus on the engagement of Indigenous students with school, science, and learning in general.

The project involved two case studies, one at a rural school that has had a Bush Rangers program in operation for many years, and the other at a rural school with a program that was established but had been in operation for a lesser number of years. Both schools were Christian Aboriginal Parent Schools (CAPS). Data collection involved a researcher visiting the school to interview teachers and students to identify and describe:

  • key factors that help or hinder the initiation and continuation of a CALM Bush Ranger group in a school setting.
  • the impact of a CALM Bush Ranger group presence in a school on student attendance, student engagement, and student learning.
  • examples of effective practice for CALM Bush Ranger groups.

The project found that a main impact of the Bush Rangers programs on students at these two schools was the development of social and personal skills, in particular leadership skills, confidence, life skills and a sense of responsibility and maturity. The team building and interpersonal skills fostered at Bush Ranger camps was noted as a strength by all people involved in the program, and students also noted how the program supported them in making friends. The outdoors focus of Bush Rangers activities appeared to complement the Indigenous students’ learning styles through their hands-on, visual and concrete nature.

Benefits to Rural and Regional Education

A report on the findings of the project that has been prepared for CALM includes the impact of the Bush Rangers program at the two schools, along with the issues, concerns and challenges identified by the schools as impacting upon the ongoing running of a program. Of particular note here is that the potential of a Bush Rangers program to both develop and support science curricula at a school needs to be explicitly fostered.

The project has provided insight into how the introduction of a CALM Bush Ranger Cadet group into a school can impact upon students' development of personal and social skills. Since these findings appeared to be particularly relevant to the Indigenous students at the schools, the project has identified a need for much more extensive research into the nature of school curricula, especially science curriculum content and related learning activities.

Contact Dr Sandra Frid

 

 

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