Schools work hard to motivate students to develop a love of the Sciences by creating a relaxed and tailored environment that stimulates curiosity in which young people are free to imagine, design, explore and analyse. Schools continue to invest an enormous amount of time and personal ingenuity to provide students with a content in which science has a place their lives and has relevance in today’s technologically focused world. Without this, students lose interest, and the battle is lost to engage with the next generation of potential scientists, mathematicians, innovators and inventors.
While teaching and learning within the National Curriculum, students are continually challenged to complete biology, chemistry and physics experimental reports to provide contextual relevance and make classroom activities more exciting. In August of 2016, San Sisto College, a Catholic girls’ school based in Carina, Brisbane, engaged with Years 7 to 10 students to ignite a fresh interest for Science with a college-wide project during National Science Week an annual initiative. National Science Week features more than 1000 events around Australia, including those delivered by universities, schools, research institutions, libraries, museums and science centres. These events attract a wide audience from children to adults, and science amateurs to professionals. Over one million people participate in science events across the nation. Year 10 San Sisto College students were assigned a task to investigate the rates of chemical reaction and how they could be controlled. Year 9 girls were given a brief on manipulating the current in electrical circuits. In comparison, Year 8 students were required to investigate respiration rates in yeast cells, while Year 7s wrote a chemistry report about the effects of temperature on dissolving substances. Each project and the resulting report developed the girl’s abilities to think flexibly, strive for accuracy, question and problem solve, gather data and to think with clarity and precision.
In the Senior Science program, small classes provided the faculty team to cater for individual student needs, develop ideas and extend learning outcomes. The senior Chemistry, Physics and Biology students worked with leading scientists outside and inside the classroom; by utilising the staff and facilities of The University of Queensland’s International Moreton Bay Research Facility, attending a week long Biotechnology immersion tour with the Translational Research Institute and by competing at Royal Australian Chemical Institute Titration competitions. Also, the college held a Women in Science lecture series which allowed students the opportunity to meet and hear inspirational stories from women currently working in Science, including past pupils.
Mr Stuart Gillett, San Sisto College’s Academic Leader of Science, explained, “the girls were presented with many opportunities in and out of the laboratory to discover and excel in Science with our main goal designed to develop women of integrity who can shape the future. We achieve these goals through training staff and students in the practical use of IT solutions to improve their organisation and effectiveness as 21st Century learners. Also, while adhering to the college’s Dominican Charisms and Habits of Mind and Spirit strategies which help students learn how to develop a critical stance with their work and provide them with the ability to not just see the world the way it is, but to also to look further into the underlying truth. Our teaching teams explored the latest ideas in pedagogy as espoused by researchers such as Dylan Williams and John Hattie. The idea of Visible Learning is one such pedagogical focus and working as teacher teams we are sharing ideas and experiences in implementing this new practice with our girls.”
As a result of this close collaboration with online teaching and learning giant Education Perfect, combined with the San Sisto student’s access to cutting edge learning support both on and off campus, the students entered and placed in the top five per cent in Education Perfect’s International Science Week competition. The global initiative joined 300,000 students from 1,000 schools, in an exciting science online competition that provided students with an opportunity to answer Science related questions that were based on the Australian Curricula and the chance to win a trip for one lucky student and their parent/guardian to Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama.
San Sisto College Principal Shelley Hamilton commented further on this great achievement, “This was an amazing opportunity to raise the profile of science learning in the College and profile the focus of the College’s academic excellence program. Not only were students able to revisits lessons learnt and to help cement students’ understanding of concepts and subject areas within the Curriculum.”
Sally Hall is the Marketing and Communications Officer for San Sisto College.