Wesley College treads new ground with a Scientist in Residence

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Head of Junior School, Maria Hodges, explains why Wesley College is the first primary school in WA to engage a Scientist in Residence.

 

Science is forever changing, evolving. And so, too, is how we teach this vital subject.

 

It’s no longer about dusty diagrams on blackboards, now children see the topic brought to life in ways we could only have dreamed of in our own childhoods.

 

Wesley College’s commitment to be on the cutting edge of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning has seen us introduce a first for a West Australian primary school. It could even be a first for primary schools Australia-wide.

 

We have employed Scientists in Residence for six to nine week blocks throughout each term for Year 4 pupils to learn from. These are ‘real’ scientists that student have the opportunity to meet and work alongside doing ‘real science.’

 

 

How does a Scientist in Residence Program work?

The children spend their time working with these scientists in the new Science Centre in the
Senior School and in the Middle School Science labs as well as out in the field conducting field work. They have the opportunity to focus on different areas of science, like Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science.

 

 

What’s in the program?

In Term 1, Mr Richard Tonello immersed the students in the fascinating science of Astronomy. Richard’s experience in the field of Astronomy spans over 18 years and currently he is the Manager and Senior Astronomer at the Gravity Discovery Centre Observatory in Gingin WA. Richard also lectures at Edith Cowan University and has been involved in the hunt for Exo-Planets. He is involved in active research with NASA, the United States Air Force, the University of Western Australia and the International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research, to name a few. As you can imagine, Richard provided the students with a wealth of knowledge, interactive star gazing evenings and a classroom that was alive and exciting to learn in.

 

Term 2 children engaged in The Green Lab. Each week for the entire term, the Year 4s spent time learning on the banks of the Swan River with scientists such as Adele Scarfone, Scientist for the City of South Perth and Wayne O’Sullivan, Botanist. This is immersion into the real life of a scientist. The students listened, planted, detected, observed, collected data and had many other opportunities to actively engage and experience science outside of the classroom.

 

In Term 3 students will become Engineers and work with Chee Wong to design their own flipping car.

 

Chemistry is the theme for our Scientist in Residence in Term 4 and Sarah Curran Ragan, former Chief Marine Scientist, will work with the Year 4s in our Senior School science labs creating chemical reactions.

 

 

So what inspired us to take this path?

STEAM fits perfectly with the Junior School’s current Inquiry model requiring critical thinking, engaging and relevant learning experiences and perseverance.

 

To add to this, STEAM provides students with an exciting classroom which embeds hands-on, real learning and breaks the traditional gender roles. It is learning related to the 21st century and jobs that may not even currently exist will rely on this way of learning and thinking.

 

This unique Wesley offering is allowing our students to experience more than they could through conventional classroom learning. Meeting and engaging with all aspects of STEAM through real experiences with real scientists has the power to change a child’s life and learning—and that’s why it’s worth the commitment.

 

 

This article first appeared in The Wesleyan. To see the magazine in full, click here.