Image Source by dzingeek@flickr
This week I particpated in a meeting with dozens of science teachers from around the world – right from my own loungeroom! Science chat is held each fortnight on Twitter, with all members using the tag #scichat. This week’s topic was “What does the ideal 21st century science classroom look like?”. It was a very interesting discussion (although somewhat limited by everyone only using 140 characters!) that included student-centered instruction and real-world, authentic experiments, rather than the cook-book style of laboratory work in 20th century classrooms. One of the exciting things that was mentioned, along with lots of links to great science resources, was having science experts to speak to students in the classroom, from their own laboratory.
In Australia, we have the Scientists in Schools Program, administered by the federal government and the CSIRO. In May this year there were 1617 partnerships across the country, in both government and non-government; primary and secondary; rural and city schools. However, many partnerships rely on the scientist having the time to visit the school – which is not always possible. It would be amazing if more scientists could use Skype for Educators, so that those partnerships could be fully realised. This kind of communication could help to dispel the myth that all scientists wear white coats, have crazy hair and mix brightly coloured, explosive chemicals together!
It has been a long and devastating week in Victoria, since “Black Saturday” and the worst bushfires since Australia was colonised in 1788. 181 people have been confirmed dead and many others, listed as missing, may never be identified due to the extreme conditions. Here in the western district we have been largely unaffected by the fires themselves, but many CFA volunteers have travelled to Traralgon, Churchill, Marysville and Kinglake to relieve and assist with fighting the fires that continue to burn. Many also have friends and relatives that have been killed, injured or lost homes and possessions.
Three schools have been completely destoyed: Marysville P.S., Strathewen P.S. and Middle Kinglake P.S.. At Hawkesdale P12 College we have been fundraising to donate money to these schools to replace materials and equipment that has been lost. Sausage sizzles, a pancake day and out-of-uniform days will continue this term.
Hawkesdale P12 College was nominated in Sustainability Victoria’s ResourceSmart Awards this year, for the work students have done during the year to promote biodiversity within and beyond the school. Many of the primary classes have contributed to the vegetable and herb gardens, as well as learning about the importance of water to living things. Year 7 students designed and constructed a “Bush Food, Fibre and Medicine” garden using indigenous species valued by koorie tribes. Year 7 students also particiapted in the Waterwatch program, which gave them the opportunity to identify aquatic macro-invertebrates and complete habitat surveys. Year 9 students repotted woolly tea-tree seedlings for the Orange Bellied Parrot Recovery Program and planted over 1,500 trees, shrubs and grasses at two locations (along the Port Fairy Rail Trail and along a creek at Greenills, Minhamite). Year 11/12 students completed quadrat studies at the Hawkesdale Racecourse Reserve and monitored nesting boxes that have been installed to prevent infestation by feral species.
Over 70 school were nominated for the awards and we were succesful in becoming finalists in the Biodiversity section, although we did not win the overall prize. Students have enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ nature of the program and become aware that theuy can make a difference in their ‘own patch’. I travelled to Melbourne with eight students who were very excited to be part of the awards ceremony and experience a day in the city. We took the opportunity to visit the Melbourne Aquarium, which has a diverse range of exhibits from the giant Murray cod and deep sea crabs, to tiny fluorescent jellyfish and colourful anenome fish. Thanks to Firestarter Ltd and other sponsors who supported the event, which was a magnificent show case of the sustainability work being undertaken in schools around Victoria.