Teachers benefit from veski's new program

29 July

“The atmosphere was full of firing neurons” at the 2013 Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association (CONASTA) according to a report by Paul Waldron, a science teacher from Kyneton Secondary College.

With the support of veski, Paul was one of two science teachers involved in veski’s inspiring students (& teachers) program able to attend CONASTA.

CONASTA brings together science educators from across Australia to hear keynote addresses, share and discuss issues of relevance, swap ideas and resources, and forge partnerships with likeminded professionals.

Supporting the attendance at events such as CONASTA is part of veski’s inspiring students (& teachers) program which aims to lift the participation in the sciences among students and deliver professional development opportunities for teachers.
 
Paul joined Jessica Macrae from Mooroopna Secondary College and veski’s James Newton at La Trobe University over a three-day period for the conference, now in its 62nd year.

The program covered a wide range of topics including a number of sessions on the rollout of Australia’s new curriculum.

The opening address by Professor Keith Nugent, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research at La Trobe University had many of the teachers asking “How do I apply the idea of trans-disciplinary research in a science classroom?”

Following this presentation, Paul and James attended an “Integration STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Instruction and Project-Based Learning” workshop which provided a number of possible solutions to this question.

“STEM integration doesn’t mean going to a STEM class, but combining the STEM themes into existing classes. For example in science, adding technology elements enables discovery, engineering helps to apply knowledge and mathematics reveals patterns and quantifies results,” Paul Waldron said.

To complement veski’s ongoing involvement in the promotion of STEM, it was really valuable to gain new insights into what it means to be a STEM institution and to gain a better understanding of how fully integrated STEM instruction can enhance the uptake and interest of school students in these subjects. This information will support veski as it works with schools towards increasing the awareness of STEM among secondary school students. 

Keynote speakers broke up the workshop sessions with interesting presentations on a range of topics from the geological evolution of the Murray Basin to the benefits of using student representation as a means of demonstrating understanding. Of particular interest was a presentation on flexible electronics given by Dr Scott Watkins, who works in collaboration at CSIRO with veski board member and inaugural veski innovation fellow Professor Andrew Holmes AM.

During breaks, conference attendees were provided opportunities to visit trade exhibitions and view a multitude of gadgets and equipment to enhance the teaching of science in the classroom.

Most fascinating was a visit to the Quantum facility at La Trobe for a hands on demonstration of how to make physics fun in the classroom using computer games and to see how 3D printing will revolutionise manufacturing in Australia.

Paul is excited about attending the next CONASTA which will be held in South Australina in 2013 exploring “The Human Faces of Science”.

He said, “if it were not for veski, I would not have been able to attend this invigorating experience”.

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