Wesley College was the first primary school in Australia to engage a Scientist-in-Residence, back in 2018. So, what’s the program about?
Science is forever changing, evolving. And so, too, is how we teach this vital subject.
“It’s no longer about dusty diagrams on blackboards and tedious textbooks,” says Jo Edinger, Head of Wesley College’s Junior School, South Perth. “Now children see the topic brought to life in ways we could only have dreamed of in our own childhoods.”
Wesley College’s commitment to be on the cutting edge of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning sees us employ a Scientist-in-Residence for six to nine-week blocks throughout each term of Year 4.
“STEAM fits perfectly with the Junior School’s current inquiry model, requiring critical thinking, engaging and relevant learning experiences and perseverance,” says Mrs Edinger. “To add to this, the Scientist-in-Residence program provides students with an exciting classroom that embeds hands-on, real learning and breaks the traditional gender roles.”
Studies have continually shown that young people who are exposed to science through active, inquiry-based learning are more likely to pursue a STEM career. And one of the most effective ways to engage students in this type of learning is to give them the opportunity to conduct genuine scientific research with a real scientist.
“The children spend their time working with these scientists in Wesley’s $9m Science Centre as well as out in the field conducting fieldwork,” says Mrs Edinger. “They have the opportunity to focus on different areas of science, such as Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering and Environmental Science.”
What’s in the 2021 program?
In Term One, the children worked with a biologist from Millennium Kids. Each week the Year 4s were on the banks of the Swan River studying human impact on the waterway. Students took water samples, met with the City of South Perth Environmental Management team and learnt about managing river and wetland health.
Each fieldstrip saw the students writing down their observations, monitoring the site and developing inquiry questions and pitching ideas for river care. “This is immersion into the real life of a scientist,” says Mrs Edinger. “The students had the opportunity to listen, plant, detect, observe, collect data and have other opportunities to experience science outside of the classroom.”
During Term Two, Mr Richard Tonello immersed the students in Astronomy. His experience in the field spans over 20 years. He is currently Chief Astronomer at the Gravity Discovery Centre Observatory in Gingin WA but has also been active in research with NASA, the United States Air Force, the University of Western Australia and the International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research.
Mrs Edinger, says: “As you can imagine, Richard provided the students with a wealth of knowledge, from star gazing evenings to a classroom that was alive with big questions about black holes and the size of the universe!”
This term the topic is Engineering, with the students working with engineer Chee Wong to design their own car, while the year ends with Sarah Curran Ragan, former Chief Marine Scientist, working with the Year 4s to explore chemical reactions.
“Now that we’ve been running the Scientist-in-Residence program for a while, I’m absolutely certain that what Wesley is offering allows our students to experience more than they could through conventional classroom learning,” says Mrs Edinger. “Meeting and engaging with all aspects of STEAM through real experiences with industry scientists, both male and female, has the power to change a child’s life and learning – and that’s why it’s worth the commitment.”
If you would like to see Wesley’s Scientists-In-Residence for yourself, register for the College’s Space and Science Twilight Tour on 9 September. Click here to book.