SA scoops prestigious science prizes

From examining Iron Man attire to replicating phases of the moon with Oreos, this year’s winners of the Prime Minister’s prizes in science teaching have done SA proud, as Flinders University graduates now inspiring the next generation of scientists.

In an outstanding credit to South Australian talent and the value of a Flinders education, Sarah Finney and Dr Samantha Moyle have won the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, Australia’s most prestigious awards for teaching across science, maths or technology.

The prizes are categories within the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, announced on 16 October, which honoured seven exceptional scientists, innovators and science teachers.

Sarah Finney, a year 3 and 4 teacher at Stirling East Primary School who graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching from Flinders in 2002, was recognised for her dedication to science education. This includes sharing her passion in professional learning communities and ensuring children are awakened to the joys of studying science.

“We’ve created phases of the moon with Oreo biscuits and asked children to turn them into stop motion animations,” Mrs Finney says.

“We’ve been using dress-ups and a green screen so that children can put themselves on the moon or on Mars, or anywhere they want to be in the universe.

“Children are born scientists and it’s my job to help them harness that curiosity and exercise it in all areas of their lives”.

Mrs Sarah Finney in her inspiring classroom

Over the past three years, Mrs Finney has led an in-depth science inquiry unit, where children pursue topics of their choice and have the opportunity to engage with scientists brought into the school from universities, the CSIRO and other scientific agencies.

Her award recognises the inspiring lunchtime STEM clubs and National Science Week activities she has created, and her role in the development of professional learning communities for science teachers in the Adelaide Hills.

Dr Samantha Moyle, a Science and Technology teacher at Brighton Secondary School, took out the secondary prize. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science (honours) from Flinders University in 2002 and went on to also complete a PhD in medicine at Flinders.

Always striving to make science as fascinating and relevant as possible, her award recognised her influence as lead teacher in the school’s Think Bright program for integrated learning in STEM, and her cutting-edge lessons with real-world links.

These include comparing Iron Man suits with real-life exosuits that help people with paraplegia walk again, and creating fizzy bath bombs for Mother’s Day to develop an understanding of acid/base reactions.

“STEM learning is vital because it builds creativity, it builds capability and resilience, and it shows students that learning doesn’t occur just in silos. Everything is connected,” Dr Moyle says.

“Being a recipient in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science is the most humbling experience. I get to be a representative for the amazing teachers out there who are doing dynamic and interesting things in their classroom every day around Australia”.

Flinders University congratulates Sarah Finney and Dr Samantha Moyle for these outstanding honours and their extraordinary contributions to science teaching.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are a tribute to Australia’s world-class science community and the critical role teachers play in inspiring the next generation of scientists and innovators.

More information about the awards can be found at its website.

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Alumni College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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