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Questacon Maker Project presents at GARMA

By 20 Aug 2014


From 1-4 August the Questacon Maker Project team presented at the annual GARMA Festival in Arnhemland, NT. Supported by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a number of organisations had the privilege of working with secondary students from across Australia and students from remote communities across the top end.

The GARMA Festival, hosted by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, is Australia's leading Indigenous cultural event, a spectacular celebration of Yolngu identity and cultural traditions including dance, song, music and art. The GARMA Youth Forum is run in conjunction with the main festival, and allows students of all backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures. The Youth Forum this year had workshops on dance, music and song writing, circus performance, health and welfare, cyber safety, positive attitudes in sport, and science awareness. Over the course of the four-day event, the students rotated through each of the activities, as well as attending cultural workshops and special activities with local Yolngu Aboriginal elders.

Questacon presenters engaged groups of students in concepts of sound, pressure, the surface tension of water, and balance through activities that demonstrated the science using hands-on activities. There was also roaming science around the Youth Forum including optical illusions and getting involved in human pyramids with the circus performers. A very quick - and loud - introduction to Newton’s Third Law of Motion with all the Forum participants was made possible with the help of over 100 rocket balloons and just as many excited teenagers and Youth Forum leaders.

Questacon presenters also got to participate in activities scheduled just for the Youth Forum. These included an astronomy lesson beneath the stars with stories from local elders and amazing telescopes, a Learning on Country bushwalk down the escarpment at the Gulkula site, and a smoking ceremony to cleanse us all at the opening of the Youth forum. Local elders taught the female presenters to basket weave - an interesting look into patterns and engineering using local materials.

The ABC’s Q and A was at Garma to present a live show on the Monday evening, and the Youth Forum participants were invited to be the audience for the rehearsal on the Sunday. Some of the youth leaders - mentors for the Youth Forum - were asked to act as the discussion panel during the rehearsal. It was a privilege to be part of the audience and to see the leaders of tomorrow discussing issues that are important to them.

Other more informal activities included waking up before sunrise to sit with local female elders as they welcomed the morning star, wandering through the Gapan Gallery and standing in the sand admiring the art hung on stringy bark trees, and enjoying a morning coffee with the view of the water over the escarpment in front and  Jack Thompson in the background running a Tai Chi session.

It was a remarkable four-day event and one that brought rewards to all who participated – it was a privilege to be involved.

Image: At Garma 2014, Arnhemland, forum participants released over 100 rocket balloons to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law of Motion.