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Innovyz alumni, Maker's Empire designs program to empower students

Kade Dufek and Jackie Fiebig, left, from Port Lincoln Primary School, Mandi Dimitriadis of Makers Empire, front, and Lincoln Gardens Primary School's Brett Cochrane and Kylie Fitzgerald. Photo: Megan DuBois.

Two Port Lincoln schools have been included in a pilot project focussing on bushfire awareness and wellness.

A collaboration of Bushfire Kids Connect and Makers Empire, the Bushfire Awareness and Wellness Program involves 10 South Australian schools who have been invited to take part in a project organisers hope can one day spread across the state and country.

Port Lincoln Primary School and Lincoln Gardens Primary School have been selected for the pilot, which will see students create a design-based challenge course in the Makers Empire app.

The program aims to help students be well-informed and understand why bushfires happen, how they are controlled, their impact on the environment and approaches to bushfire management that promote sustainability.

It also aims to support students' emotional wellbeing and their capacity to manage fears around bushfires, and to develop coping strategies in an evacuation, as well as empower students as problem solvers and creative designers who can make a difference.

Grants worth $5000 have been provided to the pilot schools, including access to the app, professional development, 12-month subscription to Makers Empire School Plan and printing.

Year 3 to 7 students at Port Lincoln Primary School will be involved in the project and the school's digital technologies and cultural studies specialist teacher Jackie Fiebig said they would utilise a number of skills.

"Students will learn design thinking skills and additional digital technology skills," she said.

"They will be collaborating with fellow students, challenge existing ideas and generate solutions to any problems, and it is an opportunity to test a lot of their thinking, make prototypes and problem-solve designs."

Lincoln Gardens Primary School teachers Brett Cochrane and Kylie Fitzgerald said they were grateful to have year 3 to 7 students from the school involved.

"We are very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this program as our site is in a high risk bushfire zone," they said.

"We are hoping the students gain valuable skills in empathy and develop knowledge in the design thinking process."

Mandi Dimitriadis runs through training with the teachers from the two schools. Photo: Megan DuBois

Bushfire Kids Connect was founded by nine-year-old Sebastian Ascott and his mother Carly in the wake of the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfires, as a way for the youngster to show support to fellow Adelaide Hills children. Makers Empire SA director Mandi Dimitriadis said the collaboration between Bushfire Kids Connect and Makers Empire would provide students a challenge about what they could design to help a bushfire-affected family, and learn facts about bushfires.

She said they would develop empathy for others going through a bushfire, as well as resilience and feel empowered for future fires as they would be better equipped to deal with a situation, plus also develop design thinking skills for solving problems, and 3D modelling skills.

"The students will design something in 3D to help a family affected by a fire - it is kids helping kids," Ms Dimitriadis said.

"It might be something that helps kids feed their animals, or maybe a board game."

She said the students would be working with their teachers over six weeks, before the 10 schools come together to showcase what they have created.

She hopes the program can be expanded.

"We hope to get feedback on the pilot and then get a statewide rollout happening, and then hopefully expand it nationally."

Ms Fiebig said it was a great way to build skills in students and develop a greater understanding of bushfires.

"It is a way to collaborate the two, to make children aware of early warning signs and to make sure they are ready for a bushfire, and to come out with design thinking and problem solving." Article written and published by Luca Cetta, Port Lincoln Times.

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