Pannawonica Primary School inspired by science

When three large, heavy boxes arrived at the local school in Pannawonica, an iron-ore mining town of 600 people in Western Australia’s Pilbara, the students couldn’t wait to find out what was inside.

“Three massive boxes of books arrived at school and as the kids unpacked them they kept saying ‘I can’t believe this, I can’t believe this,’ recalls Andrea Gill, primary school teacher and former deputy principal at Pannawonica Primary School. “As the kids started opening the first pages one of them said ‘Hang on, there’s writing in mine’ which started this domino effect around the room. When I said, ‘I think some scientists have actually written in there for you’, that was it, their minds were blown. I’m getting goosebumps even talking about it!”

The books were donated by Indigenous STEM charity, DeadlyScience, and global chemical company, BASF, who teamed up to donate 450 science books to six remote schools around Australia. In an effort to inspire a new generation of scientists, each book contained a personal message of support from BASF team members located around Australia and New Zealand.

“I cannot undersell the impact that writing a personalised message had on each of the kids, and not only those kids that opened the books in that moment, but every kid that is ever going to read those books. I call the books artifacts now, because they’re part of the furniture of the school,” continued Andrea. “To me the books are a window and the messages from BASF’s scientists say, ‘I’m you, you’re me, and look where I’m at now, I’m living my dream.’ I feel like the books are giving the kids a crystal ball to say you too can be that person.”

Andrea added that it’s not only the students who are benefiting from the gift.

“We’re upskilling teachers too with this amazing gift BASF and DeadlyScience have given. Some teachers are a little shy about teaching science or STEM because it covers more complex concepts. With these books, teachers have a vehicle to bridge literacy and science, build their confidence and because of that, we’re going to have more kids getting hands on with science. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Pannawonica Primary School Principal Ben Jamieson added that both the knowledge and messages inside the books help to bring to life the school’s vision of ‘Ohana’, which means ‘nobody gets left behind or forgotten.’

“Like Andrea, I too could not believe the impact on our students and their excitement and engagement for Science and STEM after having received the books. As a school, we are passionate about ensuring that our students are afforded every opportunity that students in the metro have when it comes to STEM education – ensuring that no one is left behind or forgotten. To have a STEM charity focused on ensuring the same level of equity is achieved for our remote students is truly a gift.”