Scientists in Schools

Ecology key to excursion success

  • Jannine Devery, Mulwaree High School, Goulburn, NSW
  • Damien Farien, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystem, Gungahlin, ACT

Jannine Devery, once a research scientist now a high school teacher, saw the Scientists in Schools program as a great opportunity to combine both worlds. Damien Farine wanted to show students that working in science can be interesting and rewarding, hopefully inspiring the students to undertake more science in their education.

Their partnership crosses state boundaries, but their common interests and expectations of their partnership have resulted in a strong collaboration.

Students with teacher and scientist in a group

In their initial meeting at Mulwaree High School in Goulburn, Damien took Year 9 and 10 students around the school grounds on an ecological survey.  The school has 16 hectares set aside for field excursions, which gives the class a great deal of space to study wetland and grassland ecosystems. This was followed by a lesson on vertebrate ecology, including a number of survey techniques, examples of when they might be used and why. Students then completed a booklet — Common Birds in Goulburn — with the help of Damien’s knowledge of birds.

For a change in pace, Jannine took the students to Canberra for an excursion closer to Damien’s workplace. After a visit to the Canberra Institute of Technology for World Environment Day, Jannine and the students met Damien at the Australian National Botanic Gardens for a tour and bird watching. Several birds were spotted on the tour and Damien talked about the role that plants play as habitat for birds to inhabit.

Students are now working on their individual research projects, with some students being mentored by Damien via email and the occasional visit to the school. The mentoring relationship has since had flow-on benefits, as the high schools students have become mentors for a local primary school on their science day.