The last day of our incredible week dawned bright and cool. We were used to this false weather by now though, the day would eventually get up to 37°C. That didn’t really matter though – we were to spend the day mostly indoors sharing our activities!
Saying Goodbye – with amazing PD opportunities!
There were quite a few groggy faces this morning. Plenty of people had partied on the night before, and some only woke up to the sounds of others rushing around madly packing.
Those of us that were leaving that evening had to vacate our rooms at breakfast, returning our keys and taking our luggage with us. There was no time during the day to return and collect luggage, but the bus driver was kind enough to let us keep it on board for the day.
Breakfast was the usual fare, with even more yogurt this time. Everyone arrived a little later than usual, with some taking a plate back to their rooms to keep packing/organising.
Once everyone was all set to go, we gathered in the meeting room for a brief chat. This was the second last time we would gather together as one large group, and it was a bittersweet feeling.
We started off the morning briefing with a talk from Suzie Urbanziak, an incredibly energetic and enthusiastic lady who will be leading a team of teachers on an amazing PD opportunity this year. The group will be heading over to Hawaii to explore the volcanoes and geology, spending a week or so learning how all the stuff we teach our students is applicable in the real world. I cannot stress enough how incredible this opportunity sounds – we will hopefully be getting more details in the near future that I would love to share with you all, so stay tuned!
Following this, one of our own group members Maddy got up to tell us about another fantastic PD opportunity – Bush Blitz. She could not express enough how amazing the program was, particularly because you get to work side by side with the scientists who are out conducting their research. You can then link up with your students back in school to share your experiences live, and do some lessons with them. I don’t think it’s a program I would particularly enjoy (I don’t like camping or insects!), but it still sounds fantastic!
Finally it was time for Vic to get up and say a few words. Surprisingly, he also had news of PD opportunities for us. ASTA are running their Japanese Science Teachers Exchange again this year, with generous funding from Latitude Group Travel, a major sponsor of this STEM X Academy. This program involves heading over to Japan for a week to experience the education system over there – you even get to teach a few lessons and see a Japan Super Science School! More information about this year’s program should be released soon too, so again stay tuned!
Sharing our activities
After putting our luggage on the bus, it was back to Deakin for our last sessions. We got stuck straight into it today, with the first group getting set up and ready to go.
This morning was all about sharing the resources and activities we had designed based on what we have encountered and learnt during the week. Realistically we didn’t get too much time to plan for these (an hour and a half the day before, plus whatever spare time we managed to find and were willing to give up), but I suppose that’s realistic for life as a teacher. Contrary to popular belief, we actually don’t get a whole heap of planning time, certainly not enough during the school day. Much of our planning happens after hours at home, usually in front of the tv or with a family member in tow.
Every single presentation was absolutely fantastic. I know I’ve used that word, and others similar, a lot in this post, but I really don’t know how to get across how amazing it all is! People had put a lot of thought into their activity ideas, many linking them directly to aspects of the curriculum. There were new ways to model different concepts, games to play to learn about processes, experiment and demonstration ideas and readings to do.
Here is a list of the different activities – if you want to know more about any specific one, please get in contact and I’ll either pass on specific information I know, or get you in contact with the group who designed it!
- Universal Gripper Inquiry – Based on an article about robotic gripper that can grip any object.
- Lights, Lasers, Lenses and Mirrors – using different tools to demostrate concepts about light.
- Constructing a Battery – using soft drink, a cup, and some copper.
- Water Tank Optics – using suspensions in water to observe properties of light.
- Adaptive Optics – open enquiry task to investigate atmosphere and solar telescopes.
- Photosynthesis game – a board game for learning about photosynthesis (keep an eye out, the group are looking into developing this game properly for sale).
- Radioisotopes – students creating a model of radioisotopes using random materials, then recording a short clip of how their model explains the concept.
- Photosynthesis and Respiration – using the algae balls we were introduced to in day 2.
- Mechanical Hand – prototyping to develop a working model of a hand.
- Evolving Populations – simple games to explore population dynamics and evolution.
- Tsunami Mitigation – modelling tsunami waves physically and on a program.
- Stalagmites – creating models of stalagmites as evidence of climate change.
I can honestly say I can and hopefully will use every single activity in my classes this year (depending on my timetable of course!). All of them were presented in such a way that you could immediately see how they would work in a lesson, and would be easily adaptable to your specific situation. The best bit is we all put our information, slides, etc into a STEM X shares dropbox, so we will have access to these resources (along with many others from during the week) whenever we want to go back to them!
At the end of each presentation the group was taken into another room to record some responses to questions about the week. These responses will be used in promotional material in the future, and of course my answer went right out of my head as soon as I stepped in front of the camera. I lost my train of thought and had to restart, and feel like what I ended up saying is not what I wanted to say at all. Oh well, hopefully it came across ok and is usable!
Once everyone had presented, a couple of alumni talked about their own experiences and the other PD opportunities etc that they have been part of. It was great to how they were getting involved in heaps of other programs, but didn’t really come across like their experiences in STEM X were used much.
We were then presented with a certificate, just like a graduation. In a way, I guess it was! We had now finished our formal learning for the week (40 hours of it, according to the certificate – does that mean I don’t need to do any more for the next 2 years?). What a week. Learning happened en mass, but all of it was actually relevant and useful.
After saying goodbye to our incredible Questacon leaders, we were on the bus again. This time we were heading to a brewery for a last lunch and drink, before heading to the airport.
It really was a bittersweet thing, sitting down with this amazing bunch of science teachers one last time. We shared this last meal (with a few cheeky drinks), commenting on how much we had learnt and what we plan to do with the future. Many are hoping to meet up again at CONASTA, or one of the PD opportunities mentioned above. We were all sad to say goodbye, but also keen to return to our normal lives (and beds) for a little bit before going back to school. Some, like me, started again on the following Monday, so we only had the weekend to consolidate and prepare. Other states had a week or so to relax before winding up their brains for the new school year.
We thanked Vic and Louise with some sneakily made signs, signed by all of us with a big STEM X 17 to put up in the office. No where near enough thanks for this week, but a small token of our appreciation.
Unfortunately for many of us, our flights were scheduled at such a time that we had to leave half way through lunch to make it to the airport on time. Even more unfortunately, all of our flights were delayed (mine was by 3 hours!). But never mind, many used it as an opportunity to continue the ‘graduation celebration’ at the bar, some like me to do some work (no rest for the wicked), others to simply rest and relax while their brains dripped out their temples from the intense week.
Best PD I’ve ever done
If you’re a primary teacher or a secondary science teacher, I cannot recommend the STEM X program enough. Sure it had some snags and complications, but no program is without some of these. They were minor enough and the positives far outweighed them.
Spending a week with such passionate, enthusiastic, and caring teachers was a unique experience. Learning about how we can better our craft, create new and engaging learning experiences, and gather a plethora of resources has made this week well worth giving up the holidays for.
This has easily been the best PD I’ve ever done, mostly because of its relevance and the hands-on way we learnt about everything.
I feel like I could go on forever about how good it was, so I’ll just stop now. Seriously, if you’re considering attending, please apply! I’m happy to give you advice on your application if you like, particularly if you want to apply for a scholarship.
Here’s to a fantastic 2017, filled with new opportunities and teaching experiences!
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.