In2science Inspiring Girls in STEM at Engineers Australia

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L-R In2science Project Officer Rachael McCullough, mentor Priyanka Pillai and University of Melbourne In2science Coordinator Dr Maddy Yewers.

A few weeks ago, In2science had the opportunity to be a part of another great community event aimed at raising the profile and support available of girls in STEM.

The event was run by the Capital City LLEN and hosted by Engineers Australia in their Melbourne office on Bourke Street. High school students, parents, and teachers alike all came along to hear from women currently working in STEM, as well as organisations committed to improving gender equity at all stages on the pipeline from school to university to the workplace, including Women in Science and Engineering, Robogals Monash, and BrainSTEM.

In2science Project Officer Rachael McCullough spoke on behalf of In2science about In2science’s aim to ensure that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to be engaged by science and its practical applications. The importance of mentoring was highlighted by other speakers throughout the evening, and further emphasised by current In2science mentor, Priyanka Pillai.

Currently a postgraduate science student at the University of Melbourne, Priyanka shared stories from her own journey into science, as well as her experiences as a mentor with In2science. For Priyanka, it was having her own supportive role model and mentor that inspired her to become an In2science mentor. She explained that her mother saw her interest in science at a young age and encouraged her to try new things, which ultimately saw her begin a Masters of Bioinformatics at the University of Melbourne earlier this year. Priyanka encouraged the parents and teachers at the event to invest time in listening and actively suggesting new ideas for young people, especially girls, to try out.

Students at the event had the opportunity to engage in a range of workshops hosted by other organisations committed to gender equity in STEM. Robogals Monash, who were also present at In2science’s Supporting Girls In STEM event in September engaged primary and secondary school students in a hands-on robotics workshop. Melbourne University’s Women in Science and Engineering club introduced students to some lesser-known female role models in STEM, as well as passing on tips about how to be successful in their STEM studies.

As long as there is a gender gap in education and workplaces in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, we are all responsible for improving our understanding of the barriers that exist for women in STEM, and committing to action that will help break them down. In2science is proud to be part of initiatives such as the City LLEN and Engineers Australia Girls in STEM event, and look forward to contributing to more in the future.

Mentees visit Science Gallery Melbourne

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In2science mentor Victoria Munro leads an activity for secondary students the University of Melbourne.

 In2science mentors hosted 75 students in years 8 and 9 from Footscray City College at The University of Melbourne and Science Gallery Melbourne. There, they took part in an interactive demonstration on the chemistry of fingerprints, then moved on for a tour of The University and Science Gallery’s Blood Exhibition. A big thanks to Bachelor of Science student, Victoria Munro who mentored at Footscray City College in semester 2 2017. Victoria took real pride in sharing her experiences in the Chemistry lab and showing the students her favourite places around campus, including the Science Gallery.

Students from Footscray City College learning about the chemistry of fingerprint analysis.

 

Teacher Alice Kim, Footscray City College said that the students gained much from the excursion, “Thank you for such a fantastic opportunity! All students really enjoyed the Gallery and found most parts highly fascinating! Students thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry lab and the Gallery. The mentor engaged students in conversations and some students ended up asking questions about what she does.”

Ms Kim continued, “Overall, it was a great experience for my students as they got to see the other side of science. The creative and innovative side. As we had only studied the traditional theory part of ‘blood’, seeing the same concept represented in various forms was a pleasant surprise for most students.”

2017 In2science Awards Celebrate Mentor Impact

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On a balmy November evening, more than 100 guests from universities, schools, government and industry gathered to celebrate the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and their students in STEM engagement. The 2017 In2science Awards, hosted at Melbourne Museum, highlighted the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and students in connecting science and maths in the classroom to the real world and highlight pathways university courses.

The evening commenced with a welcome form In2science Director Megan Mundy and a special preview of a video looking at the placement of Yianna Phaedonos at Copperfield College.

In2Science Chair The Hon Professor John Brumby AO.

Advisory Board Chairman, The Hon. Professor John Brumby AO welcomed attendees and distinguished guests, including the Honourable Judith Graley, Parliamentary Secretary for Education. He spoke of the achievements of the In2science program in 2017, from the time generously given by university students in classrooms and the teachers who support them. He highlighted sheer number of people who have been involved since the beginning of the program in 2004, with 140 schools involved, nearly 2000 mentors, supporting more than 59,000 students. Professor Brumby also made mention of the positive findings of the independent evaluation undertaken by ACER earlier in the year.

Professor Brumby presented the Mentor Support Award to Loan Luong-Nguyen of Westall Secondary College her exceptional support of the several mentors she hosted. The School Engagement Award was given to Galen Catholic College. The Outstanding Mentee Award went to year 9 maths student Jack Esho at Roxburgh College.

eMentoring student Jake Aronleigh shares his experiences.

eMentoring mentee and award finalist, Jake Aronleigh, a student of the Distance Education Centre Victoria, delivered a delightful reflection on his experiences with his Swinburne University of Technology eMentor Wael Farah, recounting all of the exciting things he had learned about astrophysics and his inspiration to pursue his interest in STEM further.

The Mentoring awards followed, with Hasti Zamanian of La Trobe University winning the Role Model Award for her support of students at Templestowe College by sharing her experiences of university life and encouraging them to begin imagining their future education pathways. The winner of the Impact Award was Reza Aliakbari from RMIT University, who developed a great rapport with his mentees at Brunswick Secondary College and contributed significantly to the learning environment.

Anna Drayton from the University of Melbourne was presented with the Dedication Award for not only being an excellent mentor to her year 9 science class at Hume Central Secondary College, but also volunteering to assist the school’s lunchtime robotics club despite no prior experience with coding or robotics. The winner of the Above and Beyond Award award went to Margaret Ngugi from Swinburne University of Technology, who showed exemplary initiative for taking on numerous professional development opportunities offered by the In2science program, and for acquiring new skills in robotics and coding to support her mentees learning with Nao robots at Bayswater Secondary College. The eMentoring award went to Sarah Hegarty of Swinburne University of Technology, who was specifically selected for her three mentees who had a particular interest in astrophysics.

L-R Teacher Loan Luong-Nguyen, La Trobe University mentor Hasti Zamanian, The Hon Professor John Brumby AO, In2Science Director Megan Mundy, Parliamentary Secretary for Education The Hon Judith Graley MP, Swinburne eMentor Sarah Hegarty, University of Melbourne mentor Anna Drayton and RMIT mentor Reza Aliakbari.

Anna Drayton returned to the stage to speak about her experiences as a mentor, during which she described sparking the student’s curiosity for her chosen study of neuroscience as ‘lighting a fire in them’, as she was met with a barrage of questions during a practical lesson involving sheep brain dissection. She was also able to share with students the sensation of being unfamiliar with a new area of knowledge and helping the students deal with the initial discomfort of developing new knowledge when she joined the lunchtime robotics class. Anna reflected on her opportunities to chat to students about what being a university student is like, and the amazing array of career possibilities opened up at univeristy that the students may not yet be aware of in secondary school.

Following the formal proceedings, the attendees enjoyed time to socialise and network together. The event highlighted the wonderful impact in STEM engagement achieved by mentors during the year with the support of the excellent teachers that hosted them. All of the team at In2science is grateful of the commitment of everyone involved, and the achievements of 2017 set the scene for an even greater 2018.

 

Click here to read more about the 2017 In2science Award finalists and winners.

 

Click here to see a photo gallery of the 2017 In2science Awards.

Swinburne eMentoring Astro Tour

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eMentoring secondary students from Traralgon Secondary College and the Distance Education Centre Victoria (DECV) were treated to a behind the scenes guided tour of the inner workings of the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology during the September school holiday.

eMentors Sarah Hegarty and Wael Farah, both completing PhDs in astrophysics, hosted three students from Traralgon Secondary College and two from DECV, who had made the trip to Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus for the day.

Sarah gave the students an insight into her PhD work of taking huge volumes of data collected from radio telescopes and finding ways to visualise it. She demonstrated to the students the computer code and software she had developed to analyse her data and probe it for insights into the mysteries of the universe.

Wael then led the group across campus to his office where he works on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and explained how he is developing a machine learning system to help solve the problem of extremely short cosmic radio signals being drowned out by radio noise generated on Earth.

The students also had a sneak peak at the virtual reality experiences under development at OzGrav, the Australian Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Finally the students enjoyed a journey around the solar system in Swinburne’s 3D Astro Tour theatre. The day was a fantastic opportunity for students from regional areas to gain a first hand insight into life at university and real scientific research. It was a demonstration of the level of commitment shown by eMentors like Sarah and Wael and their willingness to go above and beyond to inspire their mentees.

Swinburne University of Technology eMentors Wael Farah (2nd from left), Sarah Hegarty (far right), Swinburne In2science Coordinator Artem Bourov with students from Traralgon Secondary College and Distance Education Centre Victoria.

In2science eMentoring recognised at Regional Leadership Award night

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In2science eMentoring Coordinator Robyn Gamble (left) and Program Manager Joanna Oreo (right) accept the nomination for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award from Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer. Credit: Victorian Regional Achievement Community Awards.

The In2science eMentoring program received a nomination for the prestigious Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award at the recent Regional Achievement and Community Awards. The nomination was presented by Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer at a gala event held in Flemington on October 13th 2017.

In2science eMentoring was recognised as the first successful online STEM mentoring program for regional Victoria. During the 10-week program, secondary students cover a range of topics with volunteer eMentors from La Trobe, RMIT, Swinburne and Melbourne Universities over an interactive platform, and take a virtual tour of their universities. This recognition was a significant acknowledgement of the success of the eMentoring program, which was among 220 nominations received from across Victoria.

The Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards started in 2002 and are designed to encourage, acknowledge and reward the valuable contributions that individuals, communities and businesses make throughout regional and rural Victoria. These awards aim to recognise their success and achievements, which contribute to making regional Victoria a better place.

Read more about the latest successes of the In2science eMentoring program here.

In2science Wins Australasian Peer Leader Award

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In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

This week In2science was proud to accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, presented by the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) of the University of Wollongong. The award was presented at the prestigious annual PASS and Peer Learning Conference in Melbourne, whose theme was creating connections, celebrating partnerships. The PASS Conference and Awards bring together university educators and students from across Australasia to showcase best practice and innovation in peer assisted learning.

The In2science team was recognised for the innovation they have shown in developing a unique university-school peer mentoring program that increases student engagement and aspirations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This collaborative multi-university partnership, governed by an In2science advisory board chaired by the Hon Prof John Brumby AO, demonstrates an effective strategic direction for increasing STEM engagement among students.

The In2science program places volunteer STEM university students into science and maths classes in low Socio-Economic Status (SES) high schools. The volunteers act as role models and peer mentors for the secondary students, working with them once per week over a 10-week period. In2science was recognised for creating collaborative partnerships between universities and schools via metropolitan in-class mentoring and regional online eMentoring. In2science has maintained partnerships with four universities (La Trobe, Melbourne, RMIT and Swinburne) and 61 schools in the past three years. The program has coordinated over 2,500 mentor placements and helped support over 59,000 students over the last 13 years.

The judges of the award applied a number of criteria in making their decision. Winners were selected for their quality contribution to student learning and developing a culture of peer learning; as well as demonstrating  a strong understanding and delivery of peer learning theories and research within their own mentoring program. The Award winners  were also recognised for their outstanding performance, commitment and leadership.

Mentor Training and Support to Increase Impact in the Classroom

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When university students first sign up to be In2science mentors, they are often driven by a passion to pass on their enthusiasm for STEM to secondary students. But it takes a lot more than enthusiasm to be fully prepared to step back into the classroom and make a genuine connection with year 8 and 9 students. In2science coordinators train and support mentors for the ten weeks of placement to ensure they leave a lasting impression on their mentees.

Pre-placement training

Mentors at Swinburne University of Technology practice a simple hands-on demonstration.

Before mentors step into a classroom, they undertake a five hour training session led by an In2science coordinator from each of the four partner universities. This pre-placement training prepares them for their role in the classroom. Mentors learn about the current trend in Australia of declining engagement of students in VCE STEM studies and the low university enrolments by students from low socio-economic areas that In2science seeks to addresses.

Mentors are taken through what their role in the classroom does and doesn’t involve, for example, they are not disciplinarians, but they are there to help students engage. They are  given practical strategies and communication tips to understand students’ needs and help students to see the relevance of science and maths to their own lives. There are many interactive tasks that enable mentors to start putting these ideas/strategies into practise, such as demonstrating and explaining a simple scientific concept to a Year 8 or 9 level audience. They also workshop ways to introduce themselves to the class, to explain their role as In2science mentors, and to share their own experiences of studying STEM. In the past, many secondary students have engaged much more readily with their mentor when they realised the mentor was not actually a teacher. New mentors also hear the experiences of prior mentors and ask questions for a better understanding of the realities of the classroom as well as hearing about challenges and successes.

For eMentors involved in online mentoring of regional students, there is an additional training session conducted via the same online video platform that they will use to connect with the students. They are given strategies for establishing a rapport with the students, overcoming some of the communication barriers inherent in the online format. eMentors are also shown through a range of resources that they can use throughout their placement to give sessions structure and clear objectives.

Mid-placement visits

Secondary students benefit from the one on one support In2science mentors provide.

Once mentors have made their first few visits to their year 8 or 9 maths or science class, the coordinators from each university will visit each mentor to see how they are working with the students and the teacher. This is a good opportunity for the coordinators to see first-hand the makeup of the class and to meet the students the mentor is working with, in order to offer specific advice about how the mentor can maximise their impact with the students. The coordinator can also speak to the students to find out how they are benefiting from having a mentor, and to help emphasise the mentor’s role in the students’ minds.

In the case of eMentors, who have weekly sessions with the same two or three students ranging from year 7 to year 12, the eMentoring coordinator can join in on the session to observe the interaction, and offer the mentor advice after the session.

 

Mid-placement training

Mid-placement training is an opportunity for mentors to meet halfway through the semester to share stories from the classroom and learn from each others’ challenges and successes. The coordinators facilitate the mentors to reflect on the experience they have had with their mentees so far and help them frame some goals that they would like to achieve in the remaining weeks of placement. Past experience has shown that students’ perceptions of the relevance to science and maths to the real world increases when the mentors give a presentation to the class, so extra guidance and ideas are also provided to help mentors plan a presentation toward the end of their placements.

End of placement career skills PD

After the ten weeks of placement are over, and mentors have finished university exams, they are treated to a morning tea to thank them for their efforts. They are given a workshop that encourages them to reflect on their achievements during placement and translate the skills they have developed, such as communication and problem solving, into experience they can demonstrate to future employers. The mentors practice answering part of a job application citing experience they have gained from mentoring.

Volunteering as an In2science mentor is a great experience with just as many benefits for the mentors as there are for their mentees.

 

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

eMentoring boosts regional STEM engagement

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After a successful pilot in 2016, In2science launched the eMentoring program for 2017 and is now delighted to be working with 15 regional schools across Victoria.  

Over the Semester 1 program, eMentors demonstrated an enormous amount of initiative and creativity to talk with their students about topics such as how to write practical reports, studying for exams, identifying their own learning style, the importance of referencing, exchange opportunities, open days at University, VCE subject choices, how to apply to uni and the vast array of careers available with a STEM education. One eMentor also took the initiative to assist his student to write a resume and conducted a mock interview for them.

Using the online video platform Zoom, various eMentors also took their students on a virtual tour of their university, showing them their labs, common rooms, libraries, collaborative spaces and lecture halls!

 

eMentors Yvette and Marie share their experiences of their Semester 1 placements.

A returning In2science mentor from La Trobe University developed such a great rapport with his students that he shared at the end of placement, “I actually became a little emotional today (internally!) when I had to farewell one of the eMentees”.

Feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Maree Timms, Link Teacher from new partner school, Galen Catholic College, informed us their students  “have only said positive things about their experience with the program…you’d be happy to hear, [two of our students] stood up at assembly on Wednesday and spoke about the program and what they got out of it, and also to encourage others to do next semester’s program.”

The program is having a significant positive impact on all those involved.  Preliminary survey results from 2017 semester 1 show that the university mentors are able to establish effective mentoring relationships on an online environment.

Based on survey responses from eMentors during Semester 1 2017.

 

ACER Report Affirms Mentoring Impact

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ACER logoThe Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has completed an evaluation of the efficacy of the In2science peer mentoring program, and the results show that mentors increase student engagement. A total of 1868 secondary students from 34 participating schools were surveyed on a range of areas including their confidence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) studies, their understanding of the relevance of STEM, their enjoyment of science and maths, and their awareness of the career opportunities in STEM related fields.

The review found that secondary students who have In2science mentors working with them experience positive benefits including the belief that anyone can understand science and maths with enough effort and the confidence to find solutions to problems.  Students could also see the relevance of things they learned in science and maths to daily life, for people other than scientists and mathematicians. Students who had a mentor in their class also reported high levels of enjoyment of the problem solving aspects of science and maths, and an awareness that going on to study STEM subjects in VCE would improve their employment prospects in the future.

The full report can be accessed here, or at:  https://in2science.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/In2science-ACER-evaluation-2017.pdf

Selby Foundation Supporting Mentor Development

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The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

This year In2science is fortunate to receive financial support from the Selby Scientific Foundation to provide mentors with professional development opportunities. The aim of the Foundation is to support scientific education and research in Australia. They provide grants, fellowships and awards to support science education and research from the secondary school level through to advanced research by distinguished international scientists.

In addition to benefiting secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a key feature of In2science is the benefits and improved educational outcomes for university students who volunteer their time to be mentors. During classroom placements, mentors develop their confidence, communication, interpersonal and professional skills, while gaining first-hand experience of teaching to consider it as a vocational pathway.

The grant from the Selby Scientific Foundation allows In2science to expand the quality and range of professional development sessions provided to mentors. Professional development sessions provide high quality communication and professional skills for mentors to use not only during placements, but also in their studies and into employment. Furthermore it is a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge the sustained voluntary commitment of mentors and their contribution to high school students’ science and maths education.

Veteran In2science mentor and new staff member, Rachael McCullough

Thanks to the generous support of the Selby Foundation, we are also excited to introduce you to our new staff member Rachael McCullough! Rachael will be leading our new mentor professional development sessions.

Rachael is no stranger to In2science. She has completed two in-class mentoring placements at Maribyrnong College and John Fawkner College and is currently studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology and Evolution with a concurrent diploma in Mathematical Sciences at The University of Melbourne.

Rachael is well placed to share her experiences to make professional development opportunities as relevant and productive as possible for mentors. She is passionate about science and maths education and particularly wants to encourage girls to thrive in STEM. She wants to provide mentors with as many opportunities as possible with the thought that even small workshops or activities can turn into quite important elements of their future studies and career.

 

Look out for stories on our mentor professional development events in future newsletters!