Carl Pinson, NYSF 2002 Alumnus — A Passionate Science Teacher

Written by Carl Pinson.

In 2001, I was contemplating becoming an Osteopath; I liked the idea of healing using manipulation of the body. Then I achieved a place in the 2002 intake of NYSF. The entire two weeks was amazingly memorable. I met some fascinating characters and enjoyed learning more about the study and application of science. Highlights included visiting the telescope at Mt Stromlo (the big one was still operating until bushfires in 2003), watching people research with lasers at ANU, and participating in a number of thought-provoking discussions and debates.

After that, I was confident that I needed to study something to do with science. I applied for and was granted a NSW Department of Education and Training scholarship to study a Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Teaching at Newcastle University — this degree offers more than twice the minimum amount of practical teaching, and you’re learning about education all through your degree. I was offered casual work in 2006 before I even graduated, and then was appointed to Chatham High School in Taree.

Working as a teacher is constantly challenging and exciting. I am a people person, so interacting with other like-minded professionals as well as helping inspire and shape young minds is a real positive for me.

Carl (second right) on an excursion at laser tag with his students

Working as a teacher is constantly challenging and exciting. I am a people person, so interacting with other like-minded professionals as well as helping to inspire and shape young minds is a real positive for me. The best teaching experiences I’ve had include coaching the winning team in the 2007 National Solar Boat Regatta at Penrith, going on water bug surveys with Mid Coast Water personnel, and participating in the University of Newcastle Science and Engineering Challenge. I also accompanied students to ANU with Professor Murray Batchelor as part of a Scientists in Schools program through CSIRO. Getting the students out of the classroom helps to show them the relevance of science to their everyday life and also makes teaching much more fun!

I have just finished three years teaching on Norfolk Island, a remote island 1600km from Australia and actually closer to New Zealand! It was a job advertised through the NSW Department of Education and involved a very significant lifestyle change. Activities included scuba-diving, snorkelling on an impressive coral reef, participating in conservation projects and meeting a whole range of wonderful people including the local Flora and Fauna Society. I also urged one of my students to attend the NYSF, which he did at the beginning of 2016. I have enjoyed the opportunities provided in education, and recommend it to suitable people with a lot of patience.

Carl Pinson’s students from Chatham High at the 2007 Solar Boat Regatta

Carl Pinson (right)

NYSF 2017 Session A: Speed Date A Scientist

Speed Date A Scientist is an annual event at the NYSF that allows small groups of students sit and chat with many a variety of scientists from various disciplines and backgrounds. The turnout of scientists willing to be interrogated by the NYSF 2017 Session A cohort was phenomenal, resulting in an average of one scientist per group of four students.

The students have the opportunity to ask these scientists about their field, their career path, and their life in general. This article is a collection of quotes (including some bombs of wisdom) from some of incredible scientists who made the event possible.

Dr A J Mitchell – Nuclear Physics, RSPE ANU

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

“At the heart of every atom you have a collection of protons and neutrons that really shouldn’t be held together – there is a whole lot of positive charge very close together so they should repel apart. The work we do is study that nuclei.”

“We collide them together, see what radiation comes off, and use that as a fingerprint to determine properties such as shape. This gives us a fundamental understanding of nuclear forces.”

“I always enjoyed mathematics and physics, and just always pursued what I enjoyed and now people pay me to do it.”

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

 

Matt Lee – Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields.”

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields. For me I’m able to quickly read documents and give a sharp overview. It also gave me a strong understanding of global politics.”

“I go around to a lot of startup companies in IT, ag-tech, drone-tech, fin-tech and see a lot of amazing things.”

“One discipline in huge demand at the moment is data science. Everything involves data, but how do you make sense of it? People are needed to take the data, figure out how to interpret it, and make decisions.”

 

Gerard Dwyer – Teacher (Canberra Institute of Technology) and Education Officer (National Zoo and Aquarium)

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job.”

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job. Then I went to Questacon and got a job feeding the spiders – I love spiders so it was the easiest job I’ve ever had.”

“If you want to work in environmental areas, it pays to be interested in everything. ACT is good, because we have really strong legislation when it comes to the environment.”

“I realised that I can’t fix everything, but at least I can teach a lot of people.”

Gerard’s lizard friend, Sally

 

Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory)

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

“When I was in year 11 and 12 I knew I loved being outdoors, and I wanted to do Forest Science at university but I didn’t get in. So I did really well in my first year in another degree and then made my case with the Dean of the faculty and was transferred into second year Forestry.”

“Don’t think that your career will always be your career, because it will change.”

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

Students meet Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory) and Stuart Davey (Forest Ecology, Institute of Foresters Australia)

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

Rebecca Johns NYSF (NSSS) 1990 alumna – the beginning of a lifetime of science and teaching

Rebecca Johns attended the NYSF (then called National Science Summer School (NSSS)) in January 1990, and was totally inspired by her time. Not only because of the variety of research labs and scientists she visited and learned from, but for the enthusiasm of her fellow students for science in its many forms.

“I came from a small rural high school in Mossman, North Queensland and gained a lot from the opportunity to mix with different people with big dreams. My experiences at the NSSS encouraged me to apply for a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland after finishing high school.”

Rebecca also enjoyed studying physics and maths in her first two years of university but found her real passion was for chemistry. “I ended up gaining first class honours after working with Dr Trevor Appleton on cis-platin compounds in my honours year. I also received a scholarship to participate in a summer research session back at The Australian National University (ANU) at the end of my third year, which brought back many memories of my time at the NSSS.”

After completing her honours year, Rebecca wanted to experience something different. She started working as an analytical chemist at an aluminium smelter in Tasmania. “After nearly two years in this position, where I was involved in both regular environmental monitoring processes and quality control of different instruments, I was transferred to the research section working on developing a more effective electrolytic cell design. Not long after my transfer the government cut research and development support. My department lost a number of staff, including me.”  

“It was very exciting to be involved with this world-class facility.”

rj-at-cape-grim-baseline-air-pollution-station

Rebecca Johns at Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station

This sudden change in circumstances prompted her to return to university, after receiving a scholarship to undertake her PhD studies. “My environmental monitoring work at the smelter had sparked my interest in the atmosphere and I was able to immerse myself in a project investigating the effect of non-methane hydrocarbons in baseline air. I worked for the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research at the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station and the University of Tasmania. Cape Grim station is located on the western tip of Tasmania and receives the cleanest air in the world. This is where baseline carbon dioxide, methane, and CFCs have been measured for many years and shown to be increasing. It was very exciting to be involved with this world-class facility.”

Rebecca did not complete her thesis as her focus shifted to looking after her young family, but as her youngest approached school age, she returned to university to train as a teacher to pass on her love of science – especially chemistry, to another generation of students.

“I completed my Diploma of Education at La Trobe University in Bendigo and was keen to work at a rural school, given my personal background and current location in a small country town.”

rj-with-lachlan-twigg-at-local-rotary-dinner

Rebecca Johns (right) with Lachlan Twigg (centre) at Rotary dinner

For the last five years she has been teaching maths, science and VCE (year 12) chemistry at East Loddon P-12 College, located in a farming area 40 minutes drive north of Bendigo. “The school teaches 240 students from prep to year 12, with one class of students per year level. This results in some very small VCE classes, with my chemistry classes ranging from one to four students.” 

“I hope to continue encouraging students to attend NYSF as the need for scientists and scientifically literate people continues to be an issue for Australia.”

“One of my students, Lachlan Twigg, was particularly outstanding and I strongly encouraged him to apply for the NYSF. He took on the challenge and ended up attending the NYSF in 2014. He also thoroughly enjoyed the experience and in turn encouraged Sarah Collins to apply. She was selected to attend the New Zealand session in 2015, which was a huge experience for her as she was the first member in her immediate family to board an aeroplane, let alone travel overseas. Sarah also found the experience very inspiring and it encouraged her to not only finish Year 12 but go on to apply for university courses in agricultural science.  Both students said the highlight was definitely meeting other participants who were also passionate about science.”

“I hope to continue encouraging students to attend NYSF as the need for scientists and scientifically literate people continues to be an issue for Australia.”

Media release: Associate Professor Graham Hardy and Professor Shari Forbes speak at the National Science Teachers’ Summer School

We know that enthusiastic and committed teachers make a difference to Australian students studying science both in and beyond high school. Supporting teacher engagement is important to address the current high drop out rates from STEM subjects, particularly among female students.

The federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda released this month injected $48 million into improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education with the aim of increasing numbers of coding classes, training for teachers to teach digital technology, and boosting participation in STEM classes.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb earlier this month endorsed the Education Council Report, National STEM School Education Strategy[1], which is an important step toward improving STEM skills of students by lifting the standard of STEM content in teacher education.[2]

For 10 years, the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has been delivering the National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) each January. The NSTSS aims to address issues of teacher engagement in a five-day residential program based at the Australian National University (ANU).

Running from 10–15 January 2016, the program aims to reignite teachers’ passion for science and to conduct a professional dialogue about teaching and learning, as well as exploring ways of engaging students in STEM.

The 2016 program has an exceptional line-up of speakers including two lectures by Associate Professor Graham Hardy from the University of South Australia who will share his research on Science as Human Endeavour: Exploring the Big Ideas, and Approaches of Teaching, covering how interdisciplinary inquiry can benefit STEM teaching.

His recent work includes a project on interdisciplinary learning in science and mathematics, and a second project focused on developing Inquiry Based Learning approaches and how to apply them in science and mathematics. He is now working on a Higher Education Priority Pool (HEPP) funded STEM project to support the development of pedagogical practice in low socioeconomic schools around Adelaide.

Professor Shari Forbes from The University of Technology Sydney and coordinator of Australia’s first body farm will also address the teachers, exploring her experience of the advantages and challenges of interdisciplinary research.

Please contact the NYSF communications team if you would like to interview Associate Professor Graham Hardy or Professor Shari Forbes.

END

Media enquires: Julie Maynard 0421 154 201, julie.maynard@nysf.edu.au

[1] Education Council, (2015), National STEM School Education Strategy, http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/National%20STEM%20School%20Education%20Strategy.pdf

[2]Australia’s Chief Scientist, (2015) Media Release: Making STEM a priority in schools http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2015/12/media-release-making-stem-a-priority-in-schools/

NYSF National Science Teachers’ Summer School 2016 continues the tradition

Operating for over ten years, in 2016, the NYSF’s National Science Teachers’ Summer School (NSTSS) will continue to deliver a high quality science learning and teaching experience for all participants.

NSTSS 2016 offers teachers from all over Australia with an opportunity to visit The Australian National University and

  • Engage with leading researchers about the latest developments in science, in a collaborative and respectful professional environment;
  • Learn about the latest teaching resources developed by some of Australia’s iconic science and technology agencies;
  • Network with like-minded peers and challenge each other in discussions about what works in teaching Australian students today, and why? and
  • Join 200 of Australia’s leading science students at the NYSF 2016 Session A Science Dinner, featuring guest speaker, Dr Nick Gales.

Dr Gales is Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, and will address our dinner guests – including participants in the NSTSS 2016 – about his fascinating career, starting off as a country vet, leading him to be head of one of Australia’s iconic science agencies.

Dr Nick Gales

Dr Nick Gales, Director, Australian Antarctic Division

Other highlights include:

  • Discussion led by Professor Shari Forbes, University of Technology Sydney about Interdisciplinary Science in Practice in the context of forensic decomposition chemistry and the first ‘body farm’ in the southern hemisphere;
  • Live video conference with Dr Rolf Landua CERN, to learn the latest developments at the Large Hadron Collider and all things particle physics;
  • Visit to Tidbinbilla Deep Space Centre – they might let you drive a telescope!
  • Keynote and subsequent discussion from Associate Professor Graham Hardy, University of South Australia, on interdisciplinary teaching and learning in STEM;
  • Tour of science teaching facilities at Melrose High School, led by Geoff McNamara, Winner of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools;
  • Briefing discussion: Science Policy and Science Curricula – Dr David Atkins, Branch Manager Curriculum and Students with Disability, ACT Department of Education and Training;
  • Panel discussion with representatives from Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools; the Australian College of Educators, and the Australian Academy of Science.

Dates:   Arrive Sunday 10 January and depart Saturday 16 January 2016.

To apply, further information is here.

 

National Science Teachers’ Summer School

The National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) is designed to provide experienced teachers of science with a chance to re-engage with their love of science, and in turn, enhance their teaching of science to students.

In January 2015, just like students attending the NYSF, 46 teachers from around the country again converged at the Australian National University in Canberra for a program filled with seminars, lectures, lab visits and workshops designed to develop and enhance teaching practices in the classroom.

NSTSS 1A

Damien Pearce, Director of National Youth Science Forum says, “The NSTSS is an NYSF program designed to really excite the teachers who attend about the latest scientific developments and possibilities,” he said. “It also provides hands-on lab experiences that they might not normally be exposed to, using the latest equipment. And that’s quite a different opportunity for those who participate.”

Federal Member for Bowman in Queensland, Mr Andrew Laming, opened the 2015 NSTSS with a speech focusing on the importance of STEM education and its far-reaching effects on school children. He focused on the importance of arming young people with the appropriate level of STEM knowledge and understanding so that they can find good jobs, irrespective of whether they end up working in STEM fields.

NSTSS 2

Supporting funding for the 2015 program was provided by the Commonwealth Department of Education and the Department of Industry and Science, through Questacon. NYSF acknowledges this support and would also like to thank the ANU, University of Canberra, CSIRO, Australian National Insect Collection, Questacon, the National Arboretum, Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station, Mt Stromlo Observatory, Australian Parliament House, School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering – University of Sydney, National Arboretum, Mount Stromlo Observatory and Geoscience Australia for running seminars, workshops and lectures.

NSTSS 4

Mr Pearce says, “We know from our engagement with NYSF students and their families that enthusiastic and committed teachers of science make a difference to a young person’s decision to continue to work in the STEM areas. We’re looking forward to running the 2016 NSTSS and reaching out to more teachers through this program.”

The 2016 program will run from 11-15 January. For more information about the 2016 NSTSS program, email nstss@nysf.edu.au

 

 

 

Access free interactive teacher resources on river health

Are you teaching a unit on river health this year? The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has a free interactive program – Basin Champions 2015 – designed for students from years 3 through to year 10.

The goal of the program is for students to learn about

  • The rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin
  • Human impacts on the natural environment
  • Working collaboratively with peers
  • How to investigate river health
  • Effective communication strategies.

Basin Champions combines videoconferencing with an in-class investigation in which students look at the health of a river or creek near their school. Through the Basin Champions, students can learn about the importance of healthy rivers for communities, the economy, and the precious environments of the Basin.

The program runs in terms 2 and 3, with a final video-conference in term 4. To celebrate World Water Day, the program will kick off with a live-streamed video-conference on 23 March. Schools that register early will be invited to take part in this special event.

The time you allocate to the program is flexible, you can join the program throughout terms 2 and 3, and your class can complete the program in as little as one (very busy) wekk or as long as the two terms.

Teachers will receive a pack containing lesson plans, worksheets and basic water testing equipment as well as technical guidance and phone and email assistance as needed.

The program is provided free as a partnership program between the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and classroom teachers. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is a funding partner of the National Youth Science Forum, and also hosts lab visits for students during the NYSF January sessions and Next Step programs.

Further information is available by emailing education@mdba.gov.au, and you can register online at basinchampions2015.eventbrite.com.au