Totemic Species in Schools

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About the project

The Totemic Species in Schools project engaged young students with Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledges and biodiversity conservation by incorporating Indigenous sciences into the Western school curriculum.
While our project has now ended, we encourage educators and researchers to use and build on our learnings and resources in their own work. See below for our resources, including the program curriculum, findings factsheet, and evaluation survey.

Connecting the next generation with nature

Through the Totemic Species in Schools project, students at Carlton North Primary School worked with Wurundjeri Traditional Owners to learn about and create habitats for the matted flax-lily, which is Endangered in Victoria. Our team evaluated the outcomes of the program using surveys of students, teachers and parents

Knowledge of, connection to, and care for threatened species were effectively imparted through the program. We found that students felt that they had an increased understanding about the matted flax-lily and its ecology following the program. They also felt more connected with nature and indicated that they had learned about the Traditional Owners and the importance of the totemic species.
After the program, teachers felt that they were more well-equipped to teach students about Traditional Ecological Knowledge in a culturally appropriate manner. Parents/guardians also felt very positive about the program, referencing their child’s high engagement as well as their own interest in learning more about Indigenous culture and totemic species. Additionally, the program was shown to improve student engagement with nature and science, and this permeated through to parents and guardians, which is beneficial for improving biodiversity conservation engagement. 

What we found



Download the curriculum design for your school

Fact sheet

View a comprehensive overview of the project

Project Summary

Download a brief document describing the project


Read our journal article published in 'Conservation Science and Practice'

Survey data

View supplementary materials related to our research

This work was undertaken on the unceded traditional land of the people of the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations. We would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of “Australia,” and recognize that sovereignty was never ceded. 

We would particularly like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Woi-wurrung organizations we worked with in this project. 

This research received support from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP) through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub and from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Photos of program provided by Nicolas Rakotopare.

If you would like further information about the project, please contact Sarah Bekessy: