Science students get a practical boost towards HSC success

Published 08 June 2010

boostThis week more than 650 Year 12 students from throughout northern and western NSW have gained a university experience that has added a new, practical dimension to their Higher School Certificate studies in science and mathematics.

The students travelled to the University of New England from 35 schools in an area extending along the north coast of NSW, and west and south to Mudgee and Wellington.

UNE’s annual Higher School Certificate Science and Mathematics Booster Days provide HSC students with fresh perspectives on their studies by giving them access to laboratory equipment and scientific expertise unavailable in schools. The Booster Days – this year on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 June – also give the students an opportunity to meet their peers from other parts of the State.

Tonya Wilkins, a science teacher from Wellington High School who made the six-hour journey to Armidale with a group of Wellington students, said she was “really impressed” with the quality – and relevance to the HSC syllabus – of the hands-on scientific experience her students had gained over the two days. As an example, she mentioned their first-hand experience – unavailable at school – of  atomic absorption spectroscopy.

She added that the financial support of the University in paying for her students’ accommodation in Armidale had made their participation in the Booster Days possible.

“Coming here has nourished my understanding of the HSC chemistry course,” said Genevieve Dinham, a student from St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie. “We’ve been able to get practical experience today that supplements the theory we’ve learnt at school. And it’s been good to catch up – and to share HSC study experiences – with students from other schools.”

“It’s putting into practice some of the things we think about at school as concepts,” said Eli Stalidzans from Lismore High School. “For example, having seen today how a cathode ray tube works, we can relive the experience when it comes to the exam.”

“It’s also good to experience the university environment,” said Eli, who hopes to study medicine – possibly at UNE. He is one of 20 Year 12 students at the Booster Days who were selected to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in Canberra last January. Several of the NYSF students have travelled inter-State to attend the Booster Days at UNE – and extra activities organised through UNE’s partnership with the NYSF program.

Amy Cosby, the UNE-based Science Education Officer who organised this year’s HSC Science and Mathematics Booster Days, said the subjects covered included physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, engineering, agriculture, and earth and environmental science. She said the large numbers attending this year’s event, and the fact that groups were prepared to travel from as far away as Wellington, showed that schools welcomed opportunities for supplementary activities to help their students revise and prepare for the HSC examinations.

Ms Cosby said that the enthusiastic involvement of staff members from UNE’s School of Science and Technology and School of Environmental and Rural Science – as well as UNE student volunteers – had ensured the success of the event.

The chemistry students from Wellington High won a State-level round of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s High Schools Titration Competition conducted as part of the UNE Booster Days. Their win could take them on to the national level of the competition.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here expands to show Alex Siegers (left) and Genevieve Dinham, from St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie, conductinig a chemistry experiment in a UNE laboratory during the Booster Days, watched by their school science teacher, Scott Hazelton.