15/11/2016 - 15:48

Isolation no barrier to success

15/11/2016 - 15:48

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A small school in Coolgardie has not let its remote location compromise the ability to provide opportunities for students beyond the classroom.

CAPS principal Kurtis Leslie (far right) says providing innovative programs to students was an important motivator. Photo: Travis Anderson.

A small school in Coolgardie has not let its remote location compromise the ability to provide opportunities for students beyond the classroom.

Located 500 kilometres east of Perth and with just 120 pupils from kindergarten to year 12, 85 per cent of whom are indigenous, the Christian Aboriginal Parent-directed School’s focus on promoting science and an innovative mindset was celebrated with a statewide win at the 58th annual Science Talent Search earlier this year.

CAPS - Coolgardie won the year 11 research innovation category with a science project that investigated the feasibility of producing biodiesel from cow yellow bone marrow.

After several months of testing, students found that biodiesel produced from yellow bone marrow made a comparable amount of energy to petroleum diesel, produced less carbon dioxide when burned, and that the pH level and density fell within the accepted values for biodiesel.

Finalists in the Science Talent Search were automatically entered into the national BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, and CAPS Coolgardie will find out next month if it has been selected to compete against schools from across the country for a chance to represent Australia at one of the world’s largest science competitions – the International Science and Engineering Fair held in the US.

Principal Kurtis Leslie said it was the first time the school had entered the science talent search.

“We don’t know how far we’ll go in the next round but for a small regional school to win out of all the schools in WA, that in itself is really exciting,” Mr Leslie told Business News

“It shows our kids that even in the Goldfields you can have the same opportunities as schools in Perth.

“And it sends a message to our kids that you can achieve those things you may have thought you couldn’t because you didn’t think you were capable enough.”

The school was founded in 1981 by Aboriginal parents who wanted to create an education platform for their children, frustrated by the local standard of schooling at the time that led many students to leave before their final year. 

Mr Leslie said students came from as far as remote communities in the Kimberley and Kalgoorlie, and alumni had gone on to achieve success in a range of industries including law, business and arts.

“Part of our vision is to encourage our students to consider university, so being able to provide innovative programs to encourage and inspire them is really important,” he said.

“We want our students to really get something out of the school experience, something they can take with them on their life journey and make a difference back in their communities.

“We’re a small school, but we believe we can achieve big things.”

If CAPS Coolgardie wins through to the BHP Science and Engineering Awards in February, it won’t be the first time the school has travelled to America.

Several students from the school’s basketball program travelled to the US last year thanks to fundraising initiatives and the financial support from mining group Anglo Gold Ashanti, the Shire of Coolgardie, as well Aboriginal native title groups Gelganyem Trust, Paddy Bedford Trust and MG Corporation.

“International travel is powerful for the kids,” Mr Leslie said. 

“It broadens their minds to see what is actually out there and what they can achieve with hard work.

“A major challenge in any education system is retaining students; we’ve found providing different opportunities like this gives them even more motivation to complete their studies.”

CAPS director Rowena Leslie, who is a 1994 graduate of the school, said exposure to competitions and international campuses through travel and associated fundraising was a real motivator.

“It shows students how to manage goals and learn from others that they need to juggle all of their commitments in order to achieve and to further themselves in the areas that interest them,” she said.

Mr Leslie said the school hoped to continue to increase its enrolments.

At present the school has no official sponsors or benefactors.

“You need funds to be able to create scholarships, and that’s a challenge, but we know people out there would want to do that,” Mr Leslie said.

“We have to get the story of who CAPS is out there; it’s just about showing people what we do and how we do it so they can see and believe in what we’re doing here.”

 

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