School DustWatch

School DustWatch was established in 2006 as a network of primary schools in outback regions of Australia to monitor wind erosion activity. The students learnt about wind erosion and were given the resources to continue to monitor wind erosion in their local environment.
The  School DustWatch website ( external link)  was constructed in 2007 to continue to engage the students and provide learning material for teachers.


Hands-on science

Wind erosion is most active in the desert regions, but being sparsely populated, there are large gaps in the formal Bureau of Meteorology station network. Six remote schools across the Northern Territory participated in the pilot project aimed at introducing real life science into the school curriculum. It was envisaged that with extra funding, the SDW network could be expanded to other schools beyond 2008.The program engaged students in the ‘real world science’, focusing on common phenomenon in deserts: dust storms. Dr Craig Strong and Ms Margaret Bishop visited six schools in remote and arid northern Australia. The students took part in workshops to learn scientific skills in measuring and recording dust levels, and increase community awareness of wind erosion and its socio-environmental impacts. Schools were given activities and equipment for ongoing dust measurement to contribute to the DustWatch research data.

Location of the pilot schools

Pilot schools collecting data for DustWatch are located in: Alpurrurulam, Canteen Creek, Stirling, Laramba, Walungurru and Finke. 


Students in remote communities

The School DustWatch project aimed to give students:

Engagement in real life, hands-on science activities that have relevance to the wider community (data collected is vital to providing a national ‘picture’ of soil stability and the associated implications for land management). Students will be working like a Scientist - Working Scientifically.
Development and extension of knowledge about their local environment
Training in the specific skills necessary for using various scientific instruments and measuring devices including anemometer, barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, compass, digital scales, 50 metre tape measure
Provide opportunities for students to successfully use mathematical and scientific language, creative, social and physical skills in a practical way through an integrated approach to curriculum planning and implementation.
Development of  team work skills as part of a science research team
Opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with other schools and students via the SDW website

Outback teachers

For Teachers in remote Aboriginal community schools, the project provided:

Development of practical and soundly based science activities specifically suited to Aboriginal students
Professional Development training in skills and knowledge necessary for understanding and using specific science equipment
Support from SDW team in the implementation of the project by phone and email contact and also through Professional Development workshops and field visits
Expansion of  scientific knowledge about the environment

Wind erosion scientists

The project gave Griffith University wind erosion scientists:

Opportunity to collect soil samples and weather data vital for national research
Engagement of  students as on-site science researchers – Dust Detectives
Opportunity to introduce students to the real possibility of pursuing a career in science

Media reports

Read more about the project in an article published in The Australian newspaper, 'Out in the desert- a science project' external link

Radio: "Recruitment starts for dust detectives", ABC Radio - Rural, Northern Territory, 22/11/2007, URL: external link


Grant McTainsh oversees the project. Margaret Bishop provides the education curriculum guidance and Craig Strong manages the project. Funding partners in the project include:

- Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training as a part of the Boosting Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Teaching (BISTMT) Programme.; Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project

- Newmont Mining Corporation

- Desert Knowledge CRC


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