Making it real in the classroom

12/02/2016 - 14:45

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

Richard Johnson reckons he’d be a millionaire if he had a dollar for every time an adult walked into his laboratory at Rostrata Primary School and said: “Wow, I wish I had this when I was a kid.”

EFFORT: Richard Johnson spent four months creating this augmented reality sandbox for his students at Rostrata Primary School. Photos: Attila Csaszar

Richard Johnson reckons he’d be a millionaire if he had a dollar for every time an adult walked into his laboratory at Rostrata Primary School and said: “Wow, I wish I had this when I was a kid.”

His classroom lab at the Willetton school is filled with scientific and technological equipment ranging from model pterodactyls hanging from the ceiling to 3D printers and pens, aquariums housing sea creatures and frogs, a live stick-insect collection, a solar powered barbecue and virtual reality books and goggles.

There are also self-built devices such as a harmonograph (pendulum-weighted drawing machine) and an augmented reality sandbox, which projects changing images of topography on sand as it’s moved.

And while Mr Johnson’s enthusiasm and aptitude for science enthralls parents (and their children), it may also help make that big payday materialise, as he is one of 50 finalists in the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, which comes with $1 million prize money.

Mr Johnson, curator of www.johnnosscience.com and winner of several awards – including the prime minister’s prize for excellence in science teaching in primary schools in 2013 – told Business News he had purposely kitted out his science, technology, engineering and maths lab with innovative equipment.

He has used state funding in addition to his own money, investing winnings such as the $25,000 grant he received for Australia’s most prestigious teaching award from the prime minister to develop the lab (and inspire about 100 other labs around the state).

While recent funding and staff duty changes at the school mean Mr Johnson will now have a bigger focus on teacher training, he remains committed to building and sourcing new technologies, such as a Jibo robot expected soon and the augmented reality sandbox he and colleagues from the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre built over a four-month period.

Mr Johnson said his pupils were capable of learning through hands-on-discovery, and the more exciting the equipment and experiments, the more likely students were to enjoy science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects in school and make it part of their lives and careers.

“When you introduce tech like that to kids, then it really sparks their curiosity,” he said. “It instils a love and a passion for the wonders of how the world works.”

Meanwhile, increased community engagement has delivered benefits for the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research’s three-year-old BioDiscovery Centre. The centre is attracting extra attention since it extended a more open invitation to its concept of a lab as an outreach centre.

Community education manager Pauline Charman told Business News the set-up was unique in WA, hosting high school students and most recently members of the public and businesses, with staff groups also participate in team-building exercises.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options