HSC students explore world of marine science

Published 12 March 2009

octopusAbout 40 senior high-school students from Coffs Harbour, Armidale and Singleton became marine scientists for a day last Friday.

The students, who were taking part in an “HSC Booster Activities Day” through the University of New England, toured Coffs Harbour’s National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) – a joint venture of UNE and Southern Cross University – before spending most of the day at the Arrawarra Headland observing and recording marine life.

One of the students – Maddie Valentine from Singleton High School – explained that the day’s activities had provided an insight into not only the diversity and abundance of such marine life, but also the variety of careers that the study of marine science can lead to.

Associate Professor Steve Smith, who is based at the NMSC and coordinates UNE’s Bachelor of Marine Science and Management degree program, led the fieldwork. Dr Smith also spoke to the students about the Marine Science and Management degree and the career paths that it can open. Maddie, who is in Year 12 and studying Biology for the Higher School Certificate examination, said that her initial interest in UNE’s Marine Science and Management degree had been heightened by the insight she had gained into the variety of those career paths.

The participants in the field day were all students in Year 11 or Year 12 preparing for HSC examinations in Biology or Marine Studies (or related science subjects such as Mathematics and Chemistry). The field activities, addressing the HSC syllabus theme “A local ecosystem”, involved identifying animals on well-defined regions of the shore – from the lower to the upper tidal limits. The observations were recorded on data sheets, and, when they are all collated, Dr Smith will organise follow-up workshops to present and discuss a summary of the results.

“The students had a great time, and it really opened their eyes,” said one of the organisers of the day – Kim Ayres, a Schools Liaison Officer from the University of New England. “This was the first day of its kind, and it was so successful that we’re hoping to make it an annual event.” Mitchell Smidt, a science teacher from O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale who accompanied the O’Connor students taking part in the excursion, said the interactive nature of the day had enabled the students to get the most out of it.

The schools involved were: (from Coffs Harbour) Bishop Druitt College, Coffs Harbour Christian Community School, John Paul College, Orara High School, Coffs Harbour High School, Coffs Harbour Senior College; (from Armidale) Armidale High School, O’Connor Catholic College, Duval High School; (from Singleton) Singleton High School.

A PHOTOGRAPH of Maddie Valentine from Singleton High School (right) with Taneille Webb from Duval High School, Armidale, taken at the Arrawarra Headland, can be seen by clicking on the octopus image displayed here.