Science Week – It’s a Wrap!

By Dr Kirsti Abbott & Dr Siobhan Dennison

National Science Week is Australia’s annual nation-wide celebration of all things science. Not only is it an essential week to remember the incredible quality of life that science and technology have provided, but a chance to engage in fun science yourself!

It was business as usual for the UNE Discovery Voyager team during National Science Week. After all, EVERY WEEK is SCIENCE WEEK for them! It’s special, however, to be able to dedicate time to local schools and classrooms, as well as be a part of celebrations in Sydney at the Sydney Science Festival during this important week of the year.


Discovery Voyager happenings

The Voyager crew visited Kentucky Primary School for the second year running for some classic and new Discovery activities. Nemingha Public School was also lucky to score a visit from the team during National Science Week as part of their school science fair! Students, teachers and Voyager facilitators shared mind expanding moments in physics and sound, exercise science, coding and chemistry. Then Sandon Public School enjoyed a day to themselves with the Voyager team before joining forces with the Snow Gums Small Schools Alliance (students from Ben Lomond, Bald Blair, Black Mountain, Chandler and Ebor Public Schools) and even more science educators to finish off National Science Week with a full day of activities.

The Voyager team focus on play-based experiences in science; experiences that spark curiosity and wonder, and provide memorable anchors to which positive associations of and with science can be secured. Our facilitators play and experiment alongside students and teachers; they catalyse, vibrate, measure, breathe, burn, question and discover new things every session. An understanding that learning can happen in the smallest moments is just one of the qualities that make our facilitators so extraordinary.


UNE at Science in the City!

One of the biggest National Science Week events in Sydney each year is the Australian Museum Science Festival: Science in the City, which brings thousands of schools students to the museum to explore the latest innovations and ideas in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

After UNE’s highly successful partnership with the Australian Museum team in 2018 for Science on the Road in Tamworth, we were invited to participate in the Science in the City Expo down in Sydney during this year’s festival on 13-15th August. Drs Siobhan Dennison and Kirsti Abbott from UNE Discovery were joined by Dr James O’Hanlon from the Insect Ecology Lab in ERS and In Situ Science, and Dr Russell Bicknell from the Palaeoscience Research Centre and UNE’s Natural History Museum to bring a range of interactive activities to the museum.

Over 3 days, our Expo booth saw more than 2400 high school students exploring activities relating to some of the palaeontological and animal research happening at UNE:

  • Students modelled dinosaurs from clay, then used their models to estimate the real-life body size of dinosaurs.
  • They dug for bones in kinetic sand, then pieced together an incomplete skeleton to identify a mystery animal.
  • They explored the possibilities of camera trapping in ecology and agriculture, using burrow cameras to find a hidden marsupial mouse (Antechinus) and posing for the thermal camera!

Many conversations were had with students curious about studying science beyond school, and they were grateful to have real scientists available to pick their brains about how and why we do what we do! It is face to face experiences like these that have a real impact – conversations and hands-on experiences leave lasting impressions on students who are still deciding what they want to be. We look forward to more cross-school collaborations with UNE academics at more events like this into the future!

We are grateful to the School of Science and Technology for supporting our presence at the festival, and to James Turnell, Karl Vernes and Derek Schneider for their generous loans of equipment and resources for the event!