It has been twelve months since In2science mentors stepped foot in Victorian classrooms. This time last year, schools across Victoria were met with the monumental challenge of shifting their curriculum online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some In2science mentors were lucky enough to visit students twice before the state was plunged into a lockdown that lasted a total of 111 days.
This year, the mood is significantly improved. Mentors met each other for training in-person for the first time on campus. More importantly, they were excited to be allowed back into the classroom.
Catriona Vi Nguyen-Robertson, a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology at the Peter Doherty Institute with The University of Melbourne, is mentoring at Maribyrnong College. After her first session she said she is most looking forward to “sharing my passion for science with the students…and of course, singing songs about their studies!”.
Software Engineering student, Kazi Kabir spent his first session chatting about his experience at La Trobe University. He answered lots of questions about computer science, including how Minecraft is related to the field. “I had a great time with the kids!… Definitely a win”, he said.
Joseph Araniakulathil who is mentoring a Year 8 science class at St Peter’s College, Cranbourne had a successful week too. As a student completing Biomedical Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology, he was keen to see that the students had a general curiosity about science, which made engaging with them so much easier.
“I had a wonderful first session with my Year 7 class at Coburg High School working on classification systems for biology”, says Elowen Amos from The University of Melbourne. Elowen studies Geology so she was excited when the students had lots of questions about the subject, including what the oldest rocks are and if she has seen any of them.
Teachers are noticing a difference in engagement already. Lakshmi Sharma, the teacher of Elowen’s class sent glowing feedback to In2science’s coordinator at The University of Melbourne, Hayden Dalton, saying that Elowen’s presence has been wonderful. “The kids love her, and she sat with a difficult student and was just brilliant with him”, Lakshmi glowed. Because of Elowen’s experience in geology, Lakshmi also confirmed she will be talking to the Year 9s separately about rocks and volcanoes for a lesson in their Earth Sciences unit, “the kids are going to love it to have an expert person talk to them – she is such a superstar!”
So far, 94 mentors will be going into classrooms in metropolitan Melbourne, a huge positive difference compared to the challenging circumstances of last year. We look forward to their success stories and the advice they will pass onto new mentors who sign up to future semesters with In2science. It is a great achievement to be back doing what we love and sharing the amazing things STEM has to offer in everyday life and beyond school.