STEM initiative at Parramatta State School

    Parramatta State School (PSS) in collaboration with Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) and James Cook University (JCU) recently held a field day for the Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program. The field day is part of a larger project to enhance student participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. 
    The project involves students from years 4 to 6 at Paramatta State School in a survey of the biodiversity of ant species in their school grounds. Under the guidance of personnel from the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA), they will undertake activities such as mapping the location of ant species using GPS trackers, testing the efficacy of different types of food as lures for trapping ants and how to identify a yellow crazy ant population (Anoplolepis gracilipes) which is listed as one of the top 100 worst invasive species by the IUCN and the Global Invasive Species Database (WTMA, n. d.).

    Drs Greg Burnett and Subhashni Taylor from the College of Arts, Society and Education at JCU will assess the impact of this project on student participation in STEM through involvement in a real-life and authentic biodiversity project that has implications for the local community.
    During the field day, the WTMA team ran seven stations about different aspects of the Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program including mapping and identification, and participation in setting up lures and field work activities. Over 170 students participated in the field day where they also heard stories and viewed cultural artefacts brought along by indigenous rangers. The highlight of the day was Luna, the highly skilful odour detection dog.

    The project will continue in term 2 of 2022 where students will apply the skills that they learned during the field day. They will assess the impacts of invasive species, undertake a survey of ant biodiversity in the school grounds and analyse the results of their field survey. The project will culminate in a community event at the school where students will share a presentation on the impacts of invasive species to the WTMA and the wider school community.
    For further information, email subhashni.taylor@jcu.edu.au

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