- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
Science Sparks Up in Victorian Schools
Victoria’s Science Innovation in Schools (SIS) program is providing new ideas and infrastructure to enthuse students and teachers. JANICE YOUL discussed the program and its new learning centres with schools across the State.
Mildura West Primary School
Marion Vorwerk reflects that before the SIS program, science was taught in an ad hoc manner and was the first subject to go from the weekly program. Science was perceived as time consuming and requiring too much preparation. Early analysis during the program showed that science did not have to be taught as a single subject but could drive literacy and numeracy outcomes and integrated units of work. Science gave students the opportunity for open-ended inquiry and reporting, with students documenting scientific investigations by starting with a blank piece of paper.
Marion explains: ‘We are making science more relevant by linking it to the broader community; having scientists regularly visit our school as guest speakers, then as mentors and making regular use of field trips. Gradually, we are developing a list of scientists in the area that can support our program. But this does take time to collate a database and is an ongoing process. The perceived vision of a scientist by our students has changed from the stereotyped professor to an understanding of the variety of scientific roles. Real-world experiences feature in the science program: one example being the development of a drain stencilling program with the local Stormwater Officer and the development of a brochure To the Householder by the year 5 and 6 students.’
Teaching and learning strategies are being readily implemented, such as think-pair-share, POE (predict, observe, explain), PMI (plus, minus, interesting) and jigsaws. The most popular PD involved modelled teaching in the classroom setting with Michele Griffiths of Deakin University. Topics such as probing questions, using rubrics for planning and investigative learning have enhanced thinking skills.
While there are issues with sustaining the SIS program, the learnings have been extended to other areas of the curriculum.
Kyneton Secondary College
The Science staff at Kyneton Secondary College committed to the SIS project three years ago with joint SIS coordinators Cate Burton and Cindy Bradford. Sharing the position reduced the workload and led to better outcomes in the delivery of PD.
Prior to involvement in SIS most PD had been undertaken by individuals, but SIS provided the opportunity for the whole faculty to participate in a shared PD program aimed at improving teaching and learning. As a means of implementing the PD, the SIS coordinators undertook the facilitator training. The modules were delivered over the year and faculty meetings were used to share strategies and approaches. There have also been whole day science PD days for review, planning and the sharing of knowledge. The main benefit to staff has been the time spent in shared PD. This has allowed colleagues to share knowledge and skills, develop units of work that reflect the components and mentor some of the younger teachers.
Cate Burton says ‘One of the most positive outcomes for the students has been the increased participation in science-related activities and competitions. These have included a diverse range of opportunities for students, including: the Connell Wagner bridge building competition, CSIRO Student Research Scheme, Corroboree Frog project, Young Curators at the Zoo, CSIRO Public Speaking, Science Fellowship, Sun and Science Camp at Latrobe University, Dreams and Schemes and participation in various science competitions. This has raised the profile of science at the school level as well as in the wider community. It has also demonstrated the importance of science in their lives and allowed students to experience “real” science in other settings. This has been particularly valuable for those who attend a rural school.’
Biotechnology at the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC)
Hands-on gene technology experiments are experienced by year 9–12 students from all over Victoria in the new GTAC facility at University High School in Parkville.
GTAC programs manager, Brian Stevenson, said students have responded well to the stimulating environment of a real-life laboratory and the opportunity to work with young scientists. Jacinta Duncan joins the team as the education officer and recently completed a US study tour to Chicago, the Reading Biotechnology Education Centre and DNA Learning Centre at Cold Springs Harbor.
GTAC provides many professional learning activities for teachers. For example, ‘Thoughtprovoking Views on Biological Issues’ was held for VCE Biology teachers with lectures by high profile researchers from Howard Florey Institute, CSIRO Plant Industry, Monash University and the University of Melbourne.
Eminent scientist Suzanne Cory, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, first visited the DNA Learning Centre at Cold Springs Harbor in the 1980s and returned with the desire for an Australian equivalent. Professor Cory was one of the dedicated team to attend the official opening of the design award winning GTAC building on 21 July, 2004.
Bacchus Marsh and ecolinc
The Bacchus Marsh Science and Technology Innovations Centre is trading as ecolinc.
The centre is nearing completion with features such as thermal chimneys, a natural ventilation ‘hot box’ and composting toilets. Further internal construction and external works, including the stormwater diversion for the wetlands water recycling and management process, are planned over the next month.
The curriculum programs are being developed with three main themes of Sustainability: Water, Energy and Horticulture.
‘The Centre has a unique design and features that will excite students about science and involve them in a range of issues and solutions. ecolinc will certainly promote future career and study options for students interested in environmental studies,’ said ecolinc manager Suzanne Clark.
ecolinc’s major collaborative partners are Bacchus Marsh College, Moorabool Shire Council, the Department of Education and Training and the University of Ballarat. It is expected that the centre will be operational by Term 4, 2004.
Space Science at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC), Strathmore Secondary College
Fancy a trip to Mars or to the International Space Station? The design for the Space Laboratory, part of VSSEC’s mission to the low earth orbit International Space Station, has been completed and the architects have ensured that students will be transported to another dimension in this space. The Centre has developed a lot of software programs for testing and development, including the Mission to Mars program. VSSEC has undertaken detailed planning to link VCE programs to the revised VCE study designs. The Centre is also forging links with the European Space Agency based in Noordwijk, Netherlands. The European Space Agency is negotiating for VSSEC to be the Australian distributor of their space education material and software.
Teachers Michael Pakakis and Phil Spencer have been working on their vision for several years and the $6.4m VSSEC will be a unique facility in Australia, and a spectacular way for students to investigate space.
Acknowledgements and Further Information
Brian Stevenson at GTAC email@example.com
Suzanne Clark at ecolinc firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Spencer at VSSEC email@example.com
Marion Vorwerk at Mildura West Primary School firstname.lastname@example.org
Neville Davies, Loddon Campaspe-Mallee Science Project Officer email@example.com
Cate Burton at Kyneton SC firstname.lastname@example.org
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