School students enjoy a hands-on Science Week experience

Published 22 August 2011

emilyMore than 800 school students travelled to the University of New England during National Science Week to explore the world of science guided by UNE lecturers, researchers and technicians.

They were participants in UNE’s annual “Science in the Bush”, which this year was extended into a two-day event to include – for the first time – primary as well as secondary students.

Altogether, 40 schools – from Grafton to Inverell to Macksville – sent cohorts of students. On Thursday 18 August the secondary students (in Years 7-9) plunged into activities designed to introduce them to aspects of scientific disciplines including chemistry, forensic science, robotics, physics, psychology, biology, horticulture, engineering, biomedical science and pharmacy.

Josette Lewis from Orara High School in Coffs Harbour, while experimenting with the manufacture of cold packs in a UNE chemistry laboratory, said that she had already had a lot of fun investigating the colours of the flames of burning chemical elements. She had been surprised – and delighted – for example that beryllium burnt with a red flame. And looking forward to a subsequent experiment she said: “I can’t wait to be making lip balm.”

In an adjacent laboratory, students were using the phenomenon of fluorescence to identify a chemical associated with a “crime scene”. “I’ve only ever seen this sort of thing on television,” said Claudia Cooper from Bowraville Central School.

“The hands-on activities at ‘Science in the Bush’ are designed to show school students that science can be fun,” said UNE’s Dr Michelle Taylor, one of the organisers of the event. “And they certainly did have fun: we got some really good feedback.”

Dr Taylor said that the introduction of a second day to cater for primary school students had been a great success. “We’ll definitely try to do it again next year,” she said.

This year’s “Science in the Bush” was helped by a National Science Week grant from the Commonwealth Government, which supported – among other things – the transport of students from distant schools and schools in low socioeconomic-status communities. “This enabled the participation of students who would otherwise have been unable to attend,” Dr Taylor said.

She was particularly pleased that the program for primary students (in Years 5 and 6), on Friday 19 August, had attracted so many participants from small schools – including Bendemeer, Tintinhull, Moonbi, Deepwater and Nowendoc.

UNE students as well as staff members were involved in the presentation of “Science in the Bush”, and other sponsors included CSIRO and the Australian Poultry CRC.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Emily Marshall from Ben Venue Public School, Armidale, engrossed in a chemistry experiment during “Science in the Bush”.