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Pioneering WA Geoscience teacher named Western Australia local hero

Perth geoscientist Suzy Urbaniak has been recognised as the Western Australia local hero in this year’s Australian of the Year awards Ms Urbaniak pioneered taking geoscience out of the classroom into a hands-on, in-the-field experience – particularly for remote area schools.

The ‘Local Hero’ award acknowledges extraordinary contributions made by Australians in their local community – with Ms Urbaniak currently making significant inroads into science education in WA’s Pilbara region.

Suzy Urbaniak, Western Australia Local Hero in this year’s Australian of the TYear Awards. Image by scienceinpublic.com.au

Ms Urbaniak previously received the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools for her work in establishing and fostering a teaching program known as the Centre of Resources Excellence (CoRE).

CoRE encourages students to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to take on a variety of career pathways in science and engineering so that the classroom is treated more as a workplace where students can focus on evolving as young scientists.

The program has also had the additional benefit of further empowering science educators on outcomes that can be achieved by adopting a different approach to a fundamental and necessary skillset for future generations, industry and technologies which will be increasingly reliant on modern-era science breakthroughs and developments.

Ms Urbaniak said that CoRE is all about turning a classroom into a room full of young scientists, rather than students learning from textbooks.

“School and university textbooks teach theory but hands-on experience enables a student to get a real sense of inquiry, investigation and solution outcomes by better connecting the classroom environment directly with what is happening in the real world,” Ms Urbaniak said.

“Critically, the future Australian science and engineering workforce is sitting in our classrooms today.  

“CoRE is a philosophy, not just another STEM* program (* A term referring collectively to the teaching of the disciplines within its umbrella – science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  

“Education is not about passing tests – life is not an exam.

“The current education system is no longer working satisfactorily. There is an urgent need to change our education system because the future is already here. 

“At the end of the working life of the preschool class of 2020, these students will be seeing the beginning of the 22nd century. 

“But right now, industry, parents, students and teachers are demanding change.  

“0ur current 19th century model for education is not ready for that future as we have not yet prepared our educators, schools and communities to support these young people to thrive, not just survive that future.”

Ms Urbaniak said the CoRE learning philosophy mapped a practical pathway for real-world learning and practical solutions to this national challenge.

“Young people the world over are finding their voice, and are calling for our current teaching ranks to join them and be braver in navigating a rapidly changing world, rather than be paralysed by inaction,” she said.

“As educators, it is up to us to build future skills, attitudes and attributes in our students focused on practical real-world learning and to embrace creativity and challenges to fixed learning methodologies.”

The AGC’s Past-President, Dr Bill Shaw, said today Ms Urbaniak’s nomination had drawn attention to the need for those bedding down Australia’s future national education curricula to ensure the inclusion of good basic science in all future policy settings.

“Science and technology will empower societal growth in what will inevitably be an even more rapidly changing world in the future,” Dr Shaw said.

“Taking science learning into a more enriched, hands-on and self-responsible environment will attract more students to these exciting professions and help ensure Australia has the skillsets to play a major if not leading role in what will be increasingly seamless global industries, careers and professions.

The Australian Geoscience Council was amongst a number of prominent Australian scientists, learned and professional associations and institutes who congratulated Ms Urbaniak for her much deserved recognition through this latest award.

Ms Urbaniak is an AIG member and past chair of the Institute’s Western Australia branch.

Edumine Changes

AIG members have benefited from access to a dedicated Edumine campus for the past ten years. This will change in December when Edumine rolls out a new website and service delivery model.

At the moment, access to the Edumine campus requires payment of a subscription fee that offers full access to Edumine’s catalogue of self-paced, on-line courses and discounted access to live, on-line courses. From December, AIG’s relationship with Edumine will transition to one where every AIG member will receive an automatic, significant discount on the fees for every Edumine course. AIG Campus subscribers will continue to receive the full benefit of their subscription until 31st May 2020, when the campus will be discontinued.

Both on-line content delivery and the courses themselves are being updated and revamped to improve the quality of Edumine’s services.

At the moment, access to the Edumine campus by AIG members requires payment of a subscription fee that offers full access to Edumine’s catalogue of self-paced, on-line courses and discounted access to live, on-line courses. From December, AIG’s relationship with Edumine will transition to one where every AIG member will receive an automatic, significant discount on the fees for every Edumine course. Student members have not had access to the Edumine campus previously. From December, Student members will be able to access the course discounts. AIG Campus subscribers will continue to receive the full benefit of their subscription until 31st May 2020, when the campus will be discontinued.

Edumine is a great resource for AIG members seeking to expand their knowledge and exposure to geoscientific techniques and methods relevant to exploration and mining. The self-paced on-line courses are considered to be of particular benefit to AIG’s international members, and members working commute rosters by providing training that can be completed at any time, anywhere with Internet access. Every Edumine course completed by members will receive both Edumine continuing education units (CEU) and AIG continuous professional development (CPD) hours. Selected Edumine courses may also entitle members to credit towards formal qualifications in mining offered by several universities.

The AIG website team are currently working with Edumine to provide enhanced information regarding Edumine courses for AIG members.

Watch the AIOG website for further information.

Australian gold at International Earth Science Olympiad

Rebecca Whittle, a Year 11 student from Abbotsleigh high school in Sydney, has won a gold medal at the International Earth Science Olympiad in Thailand, securing Australia’s best gold medal performance at the UNESCO-sanctioned International Science Olympiads since 2009.

Rebecca competed against more than 140 students from 38 countries to win gold, finishing in the top 10 per cent of Earth Science students in the world.

The Australian International Earth Science Olympiad 2019 Team

Her medal is the second gold for Australia at this year’s International Science Olympiads, following a gold-medal performance by Sydney Grammar School student Hugo McCahon-Boersma at the International Physics Olympiad in July.    

“This double gold achievement is our best performance at the International Science Olympiads since 2009. Our teams have put in the hard yards and earned this success,” says Ruth Carr, Executive Director of Australian Science Innovations.

Rebecca was part of a four-member team representing Australia at the International Earth Science Olympiad.  The three other students won silver medals, putting them in the top 20 per cent of students and delivering Australia’s best overall performance at the competition since Australia began sending a national team in 2015.

The International Earth Science Olympiad competition involved two theory exams and four practical tests covering all aspects of Earth systems science and planetary astronomy. Topics included the geology of planetary bodies, the formation of rocks, rock and mineral identification, sea-level rise processes and the geochemistry of groundwater.   

Rose Zhang from Narrabundah College in Canberra was also part of a team awarded a silver medal in the International Team Field Investigation that she completed with students from other countries. This part of the competition emphasises international collaboration and teamwork.  

“We are very proud of our teams’ achievements this year that are a testament to their hard work and the Australian Science Olympiads program’s ability to nurture Australia’s top science students’ passion and talent for science,” says Carr.

The Australian students spent a year in exams and intensive training before competing on the international stage. They outperformed 6,000 other students from more than 280 schools in the qualifying exams, making a shortlist of 91  t to attend a two-week summer school at the Australian National University in preparation for the International Science Olympiad competitions.

The Australian Science Olympiad program is run by Australian Science Innovations and is funded through the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, with support from the Australian National University.

The Australian team results at the 2018 International Science Olympiads are as follows:

Learn more about the Australian Science Olympiad Competition at: www.asi.edu.au

International Earth Science Olympiad
8-17 August, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Rebecca WhittleAbbotsleighNSWGold
Wayne WongJames Ruse Agricultural High SchoolNSWSilver
Rose ZhangNarrabundah CollegeACTSilver
Kim ZhengJames Ruse Agricultural High SchoolNSWSilver

Congratulations to all members of the Australian team for their great achievements.

2018 student bursary applications now open!

Closing date for 2018 applications is Friday 3rd August.

The Australian Institute of Geoscientists’ Student Bursary Program was initiated to promote and support geoscience research and education in Australia. The Bursary Program began in 2001 to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) and, since then, the AIG has awarded 199 bursaries to geoscience students in Australian universities. In 2018 the AIG is again offering bursaries to Honours, Postgraduate and Third Year geoscience students.

The 2018 Bursary awards, which have values between A$1000 and A$4000, are funded by the AIG, by
the generous sponsorship of the individuals and organisations listed on page 4, and by donations from AIG members to the AIG Geoscience Education Foundation.  Visit this page for more information

 

Community Story Map Project

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has launched a community story map project, designed to highlight the work that geoscientists do in, for, and with communities.  The project is a collaboration of AGI and the Geological Society of America.

AGI are seeking photos featuring your community-centered research, work, internships, outreach, and service learning. They hope they will inspire geoscientists to reflect on their own community engagement opportunities. Geoscientists’ work in communities elevates science literacy and decision making.

Story Maps require that your photos are geotagged, or have GPS coordinates. This is a function that you set up in your cell phone or many modern cameras with an inbuilt GPS.  If you are unsure whether your photo is geotagged, please provide GPS latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds to the hundredths (e.g. 37°40’54.94″N, 50°28’14.72″E).  Search for these using Google Earth.  Photos that lack location information cannot be included in the map.

Please submit material via the form established on the AGI website.  to submit your materials (i.e., photos, photo release form, model release form, location description, GPS coordinates, and 2-3 sentence description of your role in the community).

AIG encourages members and other Australian geoscientists to support this project.  If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Fortner by email.

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