Teachers meet scientists to update classroom lessons

Published 09 December 2011

susuanna-greig-mitchell-smidtTwenty science teachers from secondary schools in Armidale, Gunnedah, Guyra, Inverell and Tamworth spent two days at the University of New England last week finding out about the latest advances in research supporting food security.

Another teacher, Edgar Cooper, travelled all the way from his school in Perth to participate in this professional development event organised by the UNE Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE). Mr Cooper, who received a travelling scholarship from the national PICSE organisation to travel to Armidale, said these PICSE events were “some of the best professional development programs offered to teachers”. “And the opportunities the PICSE program extends to our students are just terrific,” he added.

PICSE is a national collaboration between – and is funded jointly by – the Commonwealth Government, universities, regional primary industries, national primary industry organisations, and businesses. This integrated strategy delivers science class activities, teachers’ professional development, teaching resources, student camps and student industry placement programs, building strong and sustainable relationships between school students, teachers, universities and local scientists or employers associated with primary industries, particularly in the production of food and fibre.

As well as hearing from leading researchers in various aspects of food production and environmental protection, the teachers were introduced to resources developed by PICSE, including the latest interactive program: Chemistry and Biology Interactive Lessons. Those contributing to the event included Professor Iain Young, Dr Chris Guppy, Dr Daniel Brown, Dr Darryl Savage, Associate Professor Darren Ryder and Paul Lisle from UNE, Dr Gururaj Kadkol from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, and  Belinda Pine from the NSW Department of Education and Communities.

Mitchell Smidt from O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale has been attending these PICSE events at UNE ever since they were initiated some years ago. “It’s been fantastic,” he said. “I’ve piloted some of the materials in the classroom, and it’s worked out really well. The kids can get really involved in interactive programs.”

“It’s been very informative – and great to see lots of new resources,” said Anthony Gaias from Macintyre High School, Inverell. “And I’ll be able to take the new Interactive Lessons program back to the classroom where the kids will enjoy it.”

Susanna Greig, who runs the UNE PICSE program, said: “These events really are valuable opportunities for teachers to be updated on current research developments, enabling them to pass this updated information on to their students. It’s a terrific opportunity to work with teachers linked to the PICSE program to support students in discovering the exciting science-based careers linked to primary industries, and to provide them with the knowledge to make informed decisions.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Susanna Greig and Mitchell Smidt during one of the sessions on new PICSE teaching resources.