Tapping the formula for science success

schoddeA mentoring initiative and the opening of a new building are two ways in which Flinders University is enhancing the experience for science students.

Last month, the Director of Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century (Science21) Professor Martin Westwell [pictured centre] tapped the experience of more than 30 retired science teachers at a luncheon at the RiAus Science Exchange in Adelaide’s CBD.

“Teacher registration numbers in South Australia reveal there are hundreds of retired teachers who keep up their registration,” Professor Westwell said.

“It seemed to us that there was probably a lot of experience and expertise in the broader community than is being utilised in our schools,” he said.

“Some of these teachers are only recently retired and they are in touch with what’s going on in science education. And they’ve seen many changes come and go.

“We wanted to talk to them as a community, to explore some of the challenges in science education and to ask them whether, if at all, they would like to support other teachers to address these challenges.”

The response was an overwhelming ‘yes’.

“They came up with the idea of informal, ‘real’ and virtual workshops, so that teachers who may feel they’ve been thrown in the deep end, or even schools wanting to draw on some external expertise, could have someone to turn to.”

Science 21 is planning the first of these workshops for coming months and Professor Westwell wants to get the message out.

Meanwhile, Flinders has opened its state-of-the-art Science Innovation Learning Centre (SILC). Professor Warren Lawrance, Executive Dean of the Faculty Science and Engineering said SILC would give first-year science students “a home”.

“It’s easy for first-years to feel a little lost in large lecture theatres and big first year courses,” Professor Lawrance said.

“SILC is a smaller space, designed for them to mingle and socialise in, as well as study. It offers them a smoother transition for them between school and university,” he said.

In addition to highly flexible learning spaces and the latest in computer technology, SILC has extensive audio-visual equipment that will continuously display updated career, scholarship and industry news.

Professor Lawrance said school teachers will also be made to feel welcome at SILC through various conferences, workshops and professional development sessions.

“SILC will be an exciting face of Flinders science teaching to the outside world,” he said.

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