In2science mentoring relationships have a significantly positive impact on secondary school students’ attitudes towards STEM and STEM career pathways, however it is but once a year that we embrace the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the achievements of the highly dedicated schools, teachers, university student mentors and secondary school students who participate in In2science.
By Rachael McCullough
In2science hosted a dynamic Industry-Schools Partnerships Forum at The University of Melbourne on Thursday 13th of September. With attendees from Government, STEM industry, universities, and schools across the Melbourne area, the forum was testament to the growing interest in collaborative STEM partnerships between schools and industry.
On Thursday 13 September 2018, In2science will host a free forum on industry-school partnerships in STEM education. We invite you to join us to hear from leaders in industry, education and government, and to share your ideas and experiences.
In this article, we explore the emergence of such partnerships as a priority in STEM education policy and the benefits that they can provide to schools, students and industry alike. Read More
Supporting Girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond (#SGISTEM) showcased the ideas, programs, events and organisations that exist to encourage equality of opportunity in STEM. It provided In2science mentors, teachers and members of the STEM education community with the opportunity to engage with a critical issue facing their disciplines. Equally importantly, it helped them to better understand how they can utilise their roles as mentors, teachers, educators and corporate leaders to encourage girls to pursue their interest in STEM. Attendees gained valuable ideas for classroom interventions, mentoring strategies, school collaborations, corporate engagement, and how they can work together to approach issues relating to gender equity.
The evening was opened by In2science’s own Rachael McCullough, who pointed out that just as Canadian PM Justin Trudeau had justified his gender-equal cabinet because “it [was] 2015”, we should similarly be boosting gender equity in STEM because it is 2017.
The 6 panellists, representing industry, advocacy, secondary and tertiary education sectors commented on what they viewed as the greatest challenges to gender equity in STEM education and STEM careers. Michelle Gallaher, founder of Women in STEMM Australia, pointed out that sometimes men need to step back and support women to take the lead. Waheed Rashid of Ericsson provided a business perspective on the need to increase gender balance and address the shortage of visible female leaders in the corporate world. Dr Christine Redman from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education highlighted the need for boys and girls to work together from a young age in order for both to form positive attitudes about the capabilities of girls. Siddharth Verma, founder of BrainSTEM, advocated an education environment where girls are encouraged to take more risks and learn to not be afraid of failure. Janine McIntosh, manager of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) schools programs, highlighted the need to communicate the importance of STEM engagement for females across the entire STEM ‘pipeline’: primary, secondary and tertiary education, through to all stages of career progression. Dr Anita Gamvrellis, a teacher at Wesley College, reminded the audience that teachers, peers, parents and industry professionals are the biggest influences for girls interested in STEM.
After the lively and positive panel discussion, the audience and panel split off into two breakout sessions for more focused discussion on ‘Classroom Strategies’ and ‘Industry and Role Models’. These two topics provided attendees with the opportunity to further their expertise based upon their background and interest and to ask questions of panelists.
The event concluded with an expo and networking forum in which a diverse range of STEM outreach organisations showcased their programs. These included AMSI Schools / CHOOSEMATHS, BrainSTEM, In2science, The University of Melbourne Physics Society, Robogals, Sisters in Science, STELR (ATSE), and Telescopes in Schools.
Participants reported coming away from the event feeling energised and optimistic about the future, and appreciative of the opportunity to mix with like-minded people and share ideas.
The event was made possible through the generous funds from The Selby Scientific Foundation.
Twitter highlights and a video of the introduction to the #SGISTEM event is available here.
— In2science (@In2science) September 24, 2017
Innovative teaching methods embracing technology to support regional teachers were the focus of the recent Digital Harvest conference held on August 18th in Wangaratta. In2science eMentoring Coordinator Robyn Gamble and Support Officer Rachael McCullough attended the conference to promote the In2science eMentoring program to regional schools in attendance and contribute to the discussion about how digital resources such as eMentoring can help connect students in regional areas.
Biology teacher and podcaster Andrew Douch’s keynote address highlighted the need for Australian teachers to prepare students for future demands of the global economy, drawing on an analogy of an ice skater moving to where a puck is heading rather than where the puck has been. He pointed out that because of the unprecedented ease of access to information, educators need to equip students with skills that can’t be automated or outsourced overseas. He said the emphasis needs to be on ‘connecting the dots, not collecting the dots,’ meaning helping students learn how to use the abundant information at their disposal in more clever ways.
He also advised teachers to embrace the so-called “Air New Zealand” Teaching Model, automating repetitive teaching tasks by recording lessons on YouTube or as podcasts, to free up class time to focus on the more important human interactions with students and help them develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork.
Another speaker, Mark Woolley from the Wollongong Catholic Education Office, asked the approximately 180 delegates to write one word to inspire your students in STEM. Mentoring scored among the highest in the audience! He noted the declining rates of STEM subject enrolments, particularly for girls and observed that students were less willing to be challenged in school. One possible solution he suggested was to encourage students to enter competitions. Mark also shared a number of online resources for teachers which you can access here.
A range of workshops were on offer to help teachers come to grips with coding, 3D design, invention, virtual reality and how to integrate these into classroom teaching.
The In2science staff members also had the opportunity to visit a participating eMentoring school Galen Catholic College while in Wangaratta. There, they met some students to hear first hand about their experiences working with eMentors and presented them with a school participation certificate. One year 10 student, Maddy, said she had enjoyed the help her eMentor had provided: “I had a lovely mentor who answered all of my questions and helped me understand new science concepts that were being studied in class.”
Another year 10 student, Imogen, said her mentor had helped her gain more of an insight into life beyond school: “it helped give my aspirations direction and let me have an insight to what life could be like after high school.”
The visit was a valuable opportunity for In2science staff to build upon relationships with regional teachers and help them realise the full benefit for their students of connecting with eMentors. The In2science team is looking forward to attending Digital Harvest 2018!
By Rachael McCullough
In the lead-up to the In2science event Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond, we reflect on the position of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the role of outreach programs and the importance of role models and mentors.
A Historical Challenge
Think of a famous woman in science. What’s the first name that comes into your head?
It’s likely you thought of Marie Curie, one of the most famous scientists of all time.
Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her groundbreaking research on radioactivity. In 1911, she received her second Nobel, this time in Chemistry. She was the first person to win twice, and remains the only person to have won the prize in two different sciences.
Marie’s scientific prowess was incredible. But what is equally incredible is the scientific community’s reaction to her achievements. Even after making history by winning both prizes, Marie was rejected from membership into the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1911. Instead, the Academy elected Édouard Branly, a man who helped with the early development of the wireless telegraph.
Marie’s story highlights just some of the historical obstacles that prevented many women from pursuing careers in science and maths. Throughout history, there have been countless other women whose contributions to science were overlooked, neglected or credited to others.
Women in STEM today
We have come a long way since Marie Curie’s rejection from the Royal Academy. Women all over the world can now vote, graduate from university, hold academic positions, run businesses and are leaders in every field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). However, the shadow of inequity and discrimination still lingers over STEM in the 21st century.
In 2016, only 32% of STEM academic and research staff at Australian universities were women. This statistic mirrors that of STEM degree enrolments. Only 33% of STEM Bachelor degree enrolments in 2016 were women.
And what’s more, women are more likely to underestimate their own abilities in STEM subjects than men. One study into a phenomenon known as stereotype threat showed that women performed worse than men on a maths test when told that gender is a predictor of their test score. However, when this stereotype threat was eliminated, the difference in performances between men and women was eliminated.
What we can do
Gender equity in STEM is a multi-faceted and historical problem that can’t be solved overnight. While there are still many obstacles in our path to an inclusive and diverse STEM community, we can see initiatives that are gently but steadily moving us in the right direction by sharing inspiring science through role models and activities. Science outreach programs like Robogals, that specifically aim to inspire young girls in STEM, are active in many cities in Australia and in many countries around the world. Films like Hidden Figures (2017) highlight the untold stories of marginalised mathematicians and engineers in America’s mission to the Moon. And Science and Technology Australia’s recently launched Superstars of STEM program places outstanding role models in front of aspiring scientists, mathematicians, inventors and innovators across the country.
In2science is committed to gender equity in STEM in Australia. Classrooms and online mentoring platforms can be positive environments for young girls to be exposed to new ideas, inspired and encouraged by mentors to pursue whatever sparks their interest. There are also many programs and initiatives that can complement school based STEM learning.
To highlight just some of the resources available to educators and mentors to support girls in STEM, the In2science team is excited to be hosting a panel discussion and networking event on Thursday 7th September.
Join the discussion
Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond will take place on Thursday 7th of September 2017 and feature an expert panel discussion, followed by break-out discussion groups and a networking expo featuring a range of organisations and programs committed to STEM outreach and gender equity available to talk to at the conclusion of the event. If you are a university student, mentor, teacher or simply interested in promoting gender equality and diversity in STEM, we encourage you to join the discussion. This event is made possible by the generous support of the Selby Scientific Foundation.
Register for the event here! http://bit.ly/In2scigirls
With semester 1 coming to a close, mentors from our four partner universities were treated to a ‘thank-you’ morning tea and a special professional development session. The session was designed to improve the mentors’ awareness of employability skills they have developed while volunteering for the In2science program.
The mentor PD was developed with support from the Selby Scientific Foundation. The session highlighted to mentors the non-technical, ‘soft’ skills they put into practise during placement, including initiative, team work, improved communication and organisational skills. This is an important skill set for mentors to develop, as it is estimated by Deloitte Access Economics that soft skill intensive jobs in Australia will grow 2.5x faster than other jobs. Soft skill intensive jobs are expected to make up 63% of all jobs by 2030, which will include managers, engineers, ICT and science technicians.
The mentors brainstormed which of those skills they had developed in the classroom. They were shown examples for translating those experiences into responses to job selection criteria and interview questions, then practised responding to selection criteria for graduate roles at government and private organisations citing their In2science experience.
University members of the In2science advisory board were also in attendance to help congratulate mentors for their volunteering efforts and present them with certificates of recognition.
Students learn better when they are having fun, so learning how to make maths fun is a serious business. Mentors from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT University attended a professional development workshop provided by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) that provided practical methods for increasing the fun of maths in the classroom.
The day provided mentors with some great examples of language use and activities from everyday life to make maths more engaging and accessible for everyone in the classroom.
“This was a fresh perspective instead of the usual focus on content,” said Abhi Gupta, a mentor from The University of Melbourne who is working with students at Mercy College.
“Dave Tout engaged us on how maths can be better taught, especially for students who have a challenged background: by using mathematical concepts from day to day experiences, getting them to solve logic problems cooperatively, playing competitive games which rely on maths and digging deep into their understanding bottlenecks. Thanks to the In2science program for the opportunity!”
Swinburne mentor Margaret Ngugi, who mentors at Bayswater Secondary College said it changed her perspective on how maths can be taught. “It was really great and an eye opener into how the teaching system can be much more engaging and enjoyable.”
Activities included written and numerical logic problems to be completed cooperatively as well as ideas for games and resources. For example, did you know a smartie weighs exactly 1 gram with huge variation in the number and type found in a packet?
Not only did the workshop arm mentors with skills, ideas and tools for the classroom but it also provided further maths-specific conversation points and tips to be covered in the training provided to all mentors before placements.
Thanks to Dave Tout from ACER for providing the training, and the Selby Scientific Foundation for financially supporting the professional development of our mentors.
The 2016 In2science Awards recently recognised and celebrated the outstanding achievements and outcomes in STEM engagement through the In2science peer mentoring program.
In2science chairman, The Honourable Professor John Brumby, presented awards to mentors from all four partner universities, and three partner schools at the Melbourne Museum Theatre on Thursday 1st of December.
Professor Brumby opened the proceedings by praising the continuing efforts of the mentors, teachers, and supporters of In2science. He highlighted the need addressed by the program, “We all know that we’ve got a huge continuing challenge in this area. More results have come out on maths achievement in Australia, and the reality is that this is an area where Australia is really challenged. We look at the countries around us in the world, Singapore and South Korea and Malaysia and now China, they are making big investments into STEM.”
Despite this, Professor Brumby was upbeat about the achievements of In2science, “Tonight is about celebrating the success of the last year. Success in a re-invigorated form. 45 schools, 4 universities. Outstanding engagement from all of the participants. I think it’s true to say that the program is now stronger than ever.”
To recognise the efforts of mentors, there were five award categories. To read more detail about the award winners and finalists, click here.
The Mentor Impact Award for the mentor that made the greatest positive impact in engaging students in science or maths went to Selda Ekri from Swinburne University of Technology.
The Role Model Award for the mentor recognised as an outstanding role model for their student mentees was accepted by Andres Alzate of The University of Melbourne.
The Dedication Award for the mentor that showed greatest dedication and commitment to the In2science program was awarded to Tarik Zepcan of La Trobe University.
The Above and Beyond Award for the mentor that showed greatest initiative in engaging students in science or maths went to Shelley Haslett of RMIT University.
The eMentoring Award for the most dedicated university mentor in the online eMentoring program was given to Mitchell Griggs of La Trobe University.
Three awards were given to teachers and schools for their support of In2science mentors.
Teacher Kylie Lambert from Maffra Secondary College traveled nearly three hours to attend the awards and accept the Mentor Support Award for the classroom teacher who provided the most supportive mentoring environment.
The Teacher Program Commitment Award for the classroom teacher that showed the greatest commitment to the In2science program went to Jessica Sartori from Brunswick Secondary College.
The School Program Commitment Award for the school that demonstrated the greatest engagement with the In2science program was awarded to Bundoora Secondary College, and was accepted on the night by link teacher Ross Goddard.
eMentoring Award winner Mitchell Griggs delivered a mentor reflection in which he highlighted the importance of the In2science program in helping to increase levels of achievement in science and maths in Australian schools, which he said have plateaued over the last 20 years according to the 2015 TIMSS report. Mitchell also reflected on the benefits he had gained from multiple placement rounds both in-class and online, “My education, both formal and otherwise was greatly enriched by the experience of being an In2science mentor, and my perspective broadened and informed about the importance of science communication and education.”
Following the official proceedings, the mentors and teachers mixed over drinks and canapes in the foyer with other guests including representatives of the four partner universities, as well as members of government and industry.
For full details about the 2016 In2science Award winners and finalists, click here.
To see a photo gallery of the 2016 In2science Awards, click here.
Here are some exciting STEM outreach events coming up at our partner universities, as well as other organisations.
Friday 30th of September – Swinburne eMentor in Three Minute Thesis Final
Swinburne University of Technology eMentor, Umamageswari Suparamaniam, will represent her university at the Three Minute Thesis Asia-Pacific final, taking place at the University of Queensland on the 30th of September. Uma, who eMentors students from Maffra Secondary College, and studies at the ARC Training Centre in Biodevices, gained a place in the final with her presentation on Electrical Stimulation for Culturing Muscle Stem Cells. In2science wishes Uma the best of luck!
The Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge State Finals will be held at Scienceworks on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th of October, in which school students from around Victoria will put their solar-powered models to the test. The event is open to the public and is sponsored by Swinburne University of Technology, Scienceworks and Engineers Australia.
The Shell Questacon Science Circus is bringing its travelling hands-on exhibition, along with a team of fresh young science communicators to Victoria for a month-long tour from Monday 17 October 2016 to Saturday 12 November. The Science Circus, comprised of students studying the Master of Science Communication Outreach at The Australian National University, will be visiting schools and holding public exhibitions in and around the towns of Orbost, Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Warragul, Colac, Warrnambool, Portland, and crossing the SA border to visit Mt Gambier.
Enjoy all that La Trobe University’s Outdoor Laboratory has to offer. There will be activities for the whole family, including nesting box workshops, children’s activities and guided tours. Wander through the Sanctuary and learn more about this unique oasis in Melbourne’s north.
When: Sunday 23 October
Where: La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, La Trobe Avenue, across from car park 8 of La Trobe University, Bundoora
This full day program is specifically designed for teachers with limited or no formal training in Biology. Participants will explore the topic of cells from basics through to the more complex elements of cell biology. Sessions will include hands on activities that can be taken back into the classroom, a tour of the world-class microscopy facility at the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences (LIMS) and insights into cellular biology research.
When: Friday 18 November
Where: La Trobe University, Bundoora
Places are limited. For details and registration click this link to view the flier.
November and December – The University of Melbourne Science Delivery
The University of Melbourne, Science Delivery program will visit regional high schools in a week-long roadshow during November, followed by a series of one-day sessions in metropolitan high schools in December. It is aimed at increasing the participation of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds in STEM. It features interactive science activities presented by current university students who themselves are from economically disadvantaged or rural backgrounds.
For more information and to make a booking, contact Lauren de Blank [email protected].
Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th of January 2017 – The University of Melbourne ConocoPhillips Science Experience
The program is designed to provide secondary students with an experience of university life with lectures, laboratory experiments and hands on interactive experiences all whilst being able to explore University of Melbourne’s world class facilities. The program is guided by top ranking academics across various schools including BioSciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics, Engineering and Life Sciences.
RMIT is inviting the next generation of scientists to taste university life, with three fun filled days of science activities. Budding scientists entering year 10 in 2016 will go behind the scenes to undertake hands-on experiments in areas such as forensic chemistry, physics, laboratory medicine, engineering and geospatial science, as well as hear from talks from guest speakers.