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Science teachers awarded

Two science teachers have been recognised for their hard work and dedication in promoting the field among students and teachers at their schools, as part of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science awards.

Mr Brett Crawford from Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane received the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools for creating an environment in which every teacher is engaged in science.

Thanks to Mr Crawford’s commitment, all of the school’s 50-plus teachers now actively teach science in their classes.

Warrigal Road State School is a large primary school with over 1300 students, from 54 different cultures. English is a second language for 60 per cent of the students, and there is also a group of hearing-impaired children.

With Mr Crawford working as the lead science teacher, the school’s science performance has been shown to be above national averages.

“Kids have the two basic qualities you need for good science: they want to know everything about the world, and they want to play with really good toys,” he said, emphasising that they don’t need to be expensive.

“I can teach a science lesson on a $10 budget and have students understand things about chemistry. I can teach students why cyclones spin with a Lazy Susan and a glue stick.”

He also noted that many primary school teachers are anxious about teaching science, which led him to develop a program where he spends two days a week mentoring fellow teachers.

“Primary school teachers can be scared of science if they haven’t had a good science experience themselves in primary school,” Mr Crawford added.

“So we show them how to frame a scientific inquiry that the students and the teachers can use, and I go into the classroom and demonstrate how to do a science lesson.”

Winning the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, Dr Scott Sleap from Cessnock High School in New South Wales (pictured above) was awarded for opening the eyes of his students to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

“What I really love about my job is being able to make a difference in a young person’s life,” Dr Sleap said.

“Teachers have the capacity to engage and inspire our young people, and I can do that not only at this school, but across the state.”

Though Cessnock in the Hunter Valley was traditionally a mining town, jobs in this area are now largely centred on agriculture, tourism and aerospace. The nearby town of Williamtown is currently a maintenance base for Australia’s F/A-18 fighters. It will soon also become a maintenance hub for the Joint Strike Fighter in the Asia-Pacific.

As Deputy Principal STEM at Cessnock High School, Dr Sleap has worked to show the school’s students how they can participate in the area’s new economy.

To facilitate these ambitions, he has developed the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, a partnership between Cessnock High School, its feeder primary schools, and local industry.

Dr Sleap has also created school-industry partnerships with organisations including Google, BAE Systems, Boeing Australia, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Jetstar and Thales.

This has resulted in growing numbers of students signing up for STEM subjects. Now, NSW Education is now rolling out similar programs in other regional centres.

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