The Edmund Rice Flexible Learning Centre Network caters for the needs of young people in secondary education who have previously been disconnected from the conventional educational system and have already experienced varying degrees of social disenfranchisement as a result. The experience of many of these young people in science has been of embedded social-systematic biases that have translated initially as disengagement, and then as disability when their everyday life-worlds clash with mainstream science education. These young people’s backgrounds are exceptionally diverse, and frequently involve both voluntary and involuntary extended absences from formal schooling. While this is often, but by no means universally, associated with academic concerns, the paramount concern of the school is to ensure that these young people feel a part of their society, and able to contribute to that society in a meaningful way. This paper illustrates the role science can play in the social re-engagement process. The ubiquitous 5E-inquiry model structures science engagement around discrepant events and discussion. Unfortunately the probing disclosure that underpins the use of these strategies in the 5E model further alienates these young people, and is culturally inappropriate for the indigenous class members. Therefore discrepant events and discussion were reformulated to remove the risk of personal exposure while fostering the necessary relationships needed by these young people for them to engage in meaningful learning. The four principles of the Edmund Rice Flexible Learning Centres: safe and legal, honesty, respect and participation, were adapted to create an environment of trust and interest where the young people are able to reinvent their identities. The paper utilises observations from two groups of young people during weekly science interventions over the course of a term to illustrate the changes observed in the young people. It also provides guidance for the creation of socially reflexive science.
|Keywords:||Disengaged Youth, Science Education, Engagement, Alternative Education, Flexible Learning Centres, Indigenous Education, Inquiry Learning, Social Engagement|
Senior Lecturer, School of Education, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Arts, Education and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia