Student researcher

Tony Jarrett Research Leader

The inclusion of an Inquiry Learning unit on bushfires in the NSW Stage 3 Geography Syllabus comes at a time when all governments are wanting to place an emphasis on prevention and mitigation as the personal and social costs of responding to and recovering from disasters grows rapidly. Agencies responsible for emergency management, and disaster resilience education and disaster preparedness guidance, have tended to focus effort and resource on construction of education programs and interventions targeted to adults as residents.

The NSW Geography Syllabus will now see about 100,000 Stage 3 students (Years 5 and 6) studying the effect of a contemporary bush fire event on people, place and the environment each year. Teachers are expected to apply an inquiry learning approach where students research and investigate issues and impacts, identify problems and propose solutions. This Geography unit seeks to achieve educational outcomes aligned to the definitions of disaster, disaster risk reduction and resilience applied by the United Nations.  

To what extent this bush fire unit actually contributes to positive bushfire and other hazard risk reduction and resilience outcomes is important to the NSW Rural Fire Service, communities in bushfire prone areas and, ultimately, to disaster policy development and implementation.

In summary, the research proposes to provide assistance to participating schools to infuse their curriculum, with monitoring and evaluation tools being established that can evaluate both process and outcome indicators. Tools will be applied that are intended to overcome known classroom obstacles to DRE programming such as the busy curricula, lack of teacher training and necessary resources and tools, and lack of partnerships with emergency management agencies.

Stage 3 Geography has a focus on the impact of bush fire on people, places and the environment. The proposed work will examine effective learning about bushfires that builds disaster risk reduction and DRE core competencies that can be translated into direct actions at school, in households, and in the community generally. The work will also examine the contributions and attributions of Stage 3 Geography to the understanding of risk and mitigation actions, and planning and preparedness for impact of an event.

The primary research question is to what extent do enablers and inhibitors impact effective, scalable and sustainable DRE Stage 3 Geography practice. How do these practices get taken up by schools and classroom teachers, and do these programs then get translated into effective disaster risk reduction and resilience outcomes for children and youth, for schools and for households and, if so, how so?