Science Teachers – hold the date for NSTSS2017

Science teachers considering applying for the NYSF’s National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) 2017 should pencil in Monday 9 January – Friday 13 January 2017.

The NYSF has run the NSTSS for over ten years, and will again be collaborating with the ANU to deliver another quality program for teachers of science from across Australia.

The NSTSS is part of the NYSF’s suite of programs and coincides with the second week of Session A of the NYSF January Sessions. The synergies between the youth and teacher programs are obvious.

Teacher Mark O'Sullivan - NSTSS Program 2016 (Image: Geoff Burchfield)

Mark O’Sullivan – NSTSS Program 2016 (Image: Geoff Burchfield)

The program for NSTSS 2017 is still being developed, and will be released shortly. For a taste of what to expect, at NSTSS 2016 teacher participants:

  • Learned about the latest developments in science from world-leading researchers;
  • Visited first-class laboratories and teaching facilities at The Australian National University and other sites in Canberra and the region, including the CSIRO, the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station and Geoscience Australia;
  • Toured the National Computational Infrastructure and saw up close the power and interactive nature of modern data manipulation methods and their applications;
  • Spent an evening looking at the stars at the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory;
  • Learned how to bring science alive in the classroom with presentations and interactive workshops on a range of STEM topics;
  • Participated in a live cross to the CERN Large Hadron Collider and learned about the ground breaking research happening at that international facility;
  • Networked with like-minded peers; and
  • Interacted with 200 of Australia’s leading science students, participating in the National Youth Science Forum 2016.

Previous participants have reported:

“I (now) feel confident to inspire my students into the fields of science and engineering. There are so many opportunities out there and it is our role to ensure they are exposed to these fields.”

“I experienced the thrill of science and was exposed to cutting edge, real science and it was exciting. It enriched my teaching of science, giving me experiences to enrich my classroom teaching.”

The NSTSS 2016 program can be viewed here. To receive information about when applications open, please email

Astronomical teaching and learning facility for ACT

A new and unique astronomical teaching and learning facility for year 9-12 students in the ACT is moving closer to completion.

The McNamara-Saunders Astronomical Teaching Telescope (MSATT) will allow high school students to undertake extended student-centred projects in astronomy and astrophysics.  A cooperative project made possible through private donors, the ACT Education Directorate and The Australian National University, the teaching telescope is being built at the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Work begins at MSATT

Work begins at MSATT

ACT high school science teacher, Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School, has driven the establishment of the facility, doing everything from fundraising to design, to building of the facility and the creation of the educational projects.

Geoff said that the telescope project grew from the activities of the ACE Science Mentors program at Melrose High School, in which students are partnered with experts in different fields of science. Operating for over six years, the students doing the ACE program have covered everything from genetics to rocketry, physics to entomology. “Students undertake six-month projects that are based on data they’ve accumulated through experimentation, and culminates in a formal, refereed report.”

“I was frustrated that such a project was not possible in astronomy other than using second hand data, or at best, data that had been obtained remotely. MSATT will change all of that by allowing students to gather their own astronomical data, analyse it, determine the level of confidence, and draw conclusions.”

The MSATT facility will be available to any ACT public school student in Years 9 to 12. They’ll need to demonstrate that they’re prepared to undertake sufficient observing sessions to gather enough data enabling a thorough investigation.

 The initial funding was from local scientist, Dr Denis Saunders and his wife, Mrs Vee Saunders who contributed $35 000 to establish the facility. Geoff is contributing his own astronomical equipment at around $10 000 value, plus teaching, of course! Geoff said, “Since that initial donation, others have come on board realising that this facility exists for one purpose: teaching. Everything from the data and electrical cabling, the site, new equipment, even the concrete, have all been contributed for free.”

Geoff estimates that the facility’s current value is around $75 000. It should be operational in time for the NYSF 2017 programs.

Geoff McNamara is the 2014 winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Secondary Science Teaching and has also presented to the NYSF’s National Science Teachers Summer School in 2015 and 2016.