The University of Newcastle, Australia

Discovery Day popularity continuing to grow, this time south of Bass Strait

Friday, 8 July 2016

Over 1,200  students from low SES areas in Tasmania got the chance to tackle some Science and Engineering challenges as the Discovery Day tour headed south this past March.

Tasmania Discovery Day

Students from years 5 and 6 were challenged to get hands-on with 8 different activities including building bridges, wiring virtual cities, designing minipults and creating eco-friendly houses. They were also treated to an exciting SMART science show.

The tour was generously sponsored by a Baxter Foundation grant and was supported by the University of Tasmania and Rotary clubs of Tasmania. The Challenge team were supported by high school students and community volunteers who ran the activities.

The tour traveled through three regions of Tasmania to reach low SES communities, across 8 days of events. The aim of the tour was to give students access to activities they would not normally experience in schools and show them that STEM is an important part of their everyday life; something they should think about as a possible career in the future.

There was an overwhelming positive response to the events. In particular, students enjoyed the practicality of the Discovery Day’s and noted;

“You do maths every day without even noticing”

“Engineering can be fun if you get involved”

“Practically our whole world is made by engineers”

“Angry Birds is made by an engineer!”

Tasmania Discovery Day

The response from teachers was also very positive with 98% of teacher’s surveyed saying they would take ideas from the Discovery Day and use them in the classroom. Furthermore, 100% of teachers said they would encourage other schools to attend a Discovery Day and 68% of teachers said their participation in the event has changed how much encouragement they will give students in pursing science and/or engineering careers. Teacher responses included:

“The organisation was amazing, from the initial registration, to further email support. On the day it was well set out and the staff were so supportive and friendly towards the students. Our school is a socially disadvantaged rural school, and some of our students were just awe struck at the event. It was an amazing opportunity for them to participate in scientific challenges whilst having fun! Thank you so much to all involved, and to those who paid for it to be possible, you've opened doors in some students minds that never would have opened without this event!”

“I would like to thank everyone involved for providing this amazing experience for our students. It was wonderful to hear parents come into school the following day and say ‘He normally doesn’t mention a thing about his day at school but he couldn’t stop taking about what he had done on the Discovery Day’. Says it all really!”

“I think students realised just how vast the science and engineering world is. They now know that they are embedded in our life in many ways. The day was a great reminder of how fun learning can be and, in turn, how fun those careers could be.”

“I was so pleased to see all of my students so invested and engaged in the activities. I realise that when they are interested in a project, they listen well and follow instructions appropriately. I need to make sure that the experiences I offer my students are designed around ‘real life situations’ to capture this engagement.”

Just like the Science and Engineering Challenge, Discovery Days aim to involve years 5 and 6 students in meaningful, hands-on experiences that challenge them to make a difference in the world by choosing a career in the STEM field.

To find out more information about Discovery Days check out the Science and Engineering Challenge website at www.newcastle.edu.au/challenge.


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