Teachers see science at work in agricultural industries

Published 07 December 2009

picseScience teachers from secondary schools in Armidale, Gunnedah, Guyra, Tamworth and Walcha had a first-hand experience last week of the science supporting primary industries in their region.

The Primary Industries Centre for Science Education (PICSE) Teacher Professional Development event, coordinated at the University of New England, saw the 16 teachers meeting scientists at UNE and visiting the state-of-the-art Walcha Dairy, “Banalasta” vineyard and eucalyptus and lavender plantation, East West EnviroAg, and Joe White Malting.

This annual event gives science teachers the opportunity to interact with local scientists and agricultural industry leaders to update their knowledge of science in agriculture for inclusion into their classroom teaching.

On Tuesday 1 December the teachers visited UNE’s Kirby agricultural research station to learn about – and practise the use of – remote sensing tools used by UNE’s Precision Agriculture Research Group. At the UNE campus itself, Susanna Greig, the UNE-based Science Education Officer who manages the NSW PICSE Activity Centre, spoke to them about teaching resources developed through the national PICSE program. Then Dr Tieneke Trotter outlined the effects – and scientific measurement – of long-wall coal mining, before they travelled to Walcha Dairy. Back at UNE, Dr Chris Guppy spoke to them about “eutrophication” problems at Malpas Dam and then, during their evening  dinner at Archie’s on the Park, Dr Mike Sissons talked about the production of pasta.

On Wednesday 2 December they toured “Banalasta” on their way to Tamworth where, at East West EnviroAg, Stephanie Cameron demonstrated Atomic Absorption Spectrometry and gave advice on the kits used to monitor water quality. At Joe White Malting, Miroslav Prazak outlined the process of the conversion of barley into malt – a process appreciated by the teachers during their tasting of different styles of beer.

“The event highlighted the exciting science-based career opportunities in agricultural science for our students beyond schooling,” one of the teachers commented.

“It has developed my awareness of the expertise in scientific research and its application to industry in our local region,” another said. “I’m looking forward to including this information – together with relevant contact details – in my future teaching.”

“This is the third year that we have run the event,” Susanna Greig said. “It seems to be getting better each year, and I’m thrilled with the very positive response of the teachers who participated in it.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here expands to show (from left) science teachers Jeff  Barrett from Walcha Central School, and Christopher Parker and Rod Blaker from Oxley High School, during last week’s activities at UNE.