Testing the waters of university study through hands-on experience

Published 20 November 2020

This is the hope that drives the Oorala Aboriginal Centre’s University of New England Experience Days; a program that is giving Year 10-12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students a chance to see what university life has to offer.

The Experience Days provide an opportunity for students to be exposed to life on campus, focusing on academic preparation, careers and hands-on experiences in a variety of discipline areas including Science, Business, Law, Sports Science, Education, Health and Rural Science.

On November 11th, the first group of high school students made their way to the Armidale UNE campus for the first of four planned Experience Days. This group of eight students took part in experiments in the fields of Chemistry and Bio Medical Science which gave them a taste of what studying Science in a campus environment can look and feel like.

While among the labs these students learnt about moles and aspirin in Chemistry with Dr Erica Smith and later that day extracted DNA from strawberries in the Bio-Medicine labs with Dr Mary McMillan.

The first Experience Day was a resounding success with both the students and UNE staff thrilled to take part in these workshop sessions.

When asked what the highlight of the day was Dr Erica Smith said that it was the students themselves. “They were wonderful to work with in the chemistry lab. They were curious, enthusiastic and open-minded about trying something new, i.e. making aspirin!”

“It reminds us of why we do what we do. I am an educator and a scientist, and I want my work to help make a difference. Engaging with our youth helps keeps us focused on contemporary issues and what is important for future generations. Also, for our future UNE community, providing an opportunity for local kids to think about UNE means they might join us a student or staff member one day! If UNE wants to effect positive change in our community, we need to have people from this community studying and working at UNE.”

After the success of the first Experience Days, three more sessions will be running over the following weeks. Each Experience Day will be made up of small groups to maintain social distancing guidelines and COVID safety measures. The following Experience Days will be held on-campus on November 18th, 24th and December 2nd, each of which will focus on different areas of study to give the students a chance to experience many of the different courses that UNE has to offer.

In this story: