Science Teachers go Nano at La Trobe

Two hundred science teachers from around Victoria will be introduced to novel approaches to teaching science when Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Ms Julia Gillard launches AccessNano, a new educational resource, at La Trobe University today (Friday November 28).

Scientists at La Trobe drive and monitor a Synchrotron experiment by remote control from Bundoora

Scientists at La Trobe drive and monitor a Synchrotron experiment by remote control from Bundoora.

Ms Gillard will launch the resource during the STAVCON 2008 Science Teachers Conference of Victoria at the Agora Theatre, La Trobe University, Bundoora campus, at 2.30 p.m.

Funded by the Australian Office of Nanotechnology as an Australian Government initiative, the resource offers science teachers innovative and accessible pathways for teaching science and technology in secondary schools.

The program was designed by La Trobe University science teacher Francesca Calati, winner of the 2007 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and her colleague Dr Amanda Clarke, from Balwyn High School, and developed by Melbourne-based communications consultancy Bridge 8 Pty Ltd.

Ms Calati said today AccessNano had evolved from the outstandingly successful nanotechnology curriculum development program SHINE (St Helena Innovation in Nanotechnology Education) implemented at the St Helena Secondary College in Melbourne’s north east in 2007.

One of four principal drivers behind SHINE, Ms Calati was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for her unique approach to teaching chemistry and nanotechnology at St Helena, resulting in a trebling of student participation in the school’s chemistry course.

She said AccessNano reflected and extended the uniquely structured approach to developing science curricula piloted in SHINE, using cool applications of nanotechnology to engage students in science and raise awareness of career pathways and related social issues.

The program could not have been developed by educators alone without the continuing involvement of experts, academics and industry, including significant contributions from academics and students from La Trobe University’s nanotechnology community, she said.

Now an Outreach and Curriculum Development Officer with La Trobe’s Department of Biochemistry, Ms Calati is continuing to develop pioneering new ways to engage students and the wider community in the relevance of science.

“I have run many workshops this year for science teachers wanting to implement the SHINE program in their schools to invigorate the delivery of their science curriculum, and – under the guidance of Professor Nick Hoogenraad who is very passionate about science teaching – I’ve piloted a number of Outreach programs for teachers and students,” Ms Calati said.  (Professor Hoogenraad is Professor of Biochemistry and Head of La Trobe’s school of Molecular Sciences.)

“I’m also looking forward to developing science curricula in 2009 based on the cutting edge medical research taking place in the Biochemistry Department in search of cures for malaria and cancer,” Ms Calati said.

She would continue accessing the resources made available to SHINE by La Trobe’s nanotechnology undergraduate program and Associate Professor Paul Pigram’s regular Issues in Nanotechnology seminars in the Department of Physics.

“We’re also looking at tapping into some of the new projects coming online – like access to the Synchrotron through the La Trobe-VeRSI Virtual Beamline (VBL) theatrette – and developing a workshop for VCE physics students involving nanoscience undergraduates.  (La Trobe nanotechnology students are very active in peer mentoring in Victorian secondary schools.)

Ms Calati and her AccessNano collaborator Dr Clarke will run two professional development workshops during the STAVCON conference – one to assist teachers wanting to introduce a rigorous nanotechnology program at year 10 level, the other for teachers with no background in nanotechnology wanting to introduce it at a very simple level.

Agora Theatre. La Trobe University, Bundoora
Media contacts:
Ms Francesca Calati,
Outreach and Curriculum Development Officer,
School of Molecular Sciences, La Trobe,
T: 03 9479 6516 E:
Assoc.Professor Paul Pigram,
Head of Department of Physics, La Trobe,
T: 03 9479 2618

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