Scientists in Schools

"Why do I need to know this?"

Download Showcase
(PDF, 0.70MB)

  • Leanne Webster, St Andrews Catholic College, Redlynch, QLD
  • Tony Webster, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Tony helping Year 9 students

Researching agronomy has taken Tony from improving banana growth on farms near tropical Innisfail to Africa working on an AusAid seeds project. Sharing his experience and knowledge of current research techniques provided a valuable new perspective for all students studying agricultural science at St Andrews Catholic College.

Initially it took some persuading for Tony to address Leanne’s Year 11 Biology classes about plant physiology. When designing their Extended Experimental Investigation, Tony encouraged students to consider measuring different types of plant data. By discussing his research into bananas in South Johnstone, Qld, he explained a range of variables including leaf length, root depth and dry biomass.

After teaching current plant sampling techniques, Tony then dried the samples using his workplace equipment. Access to this equipment gave the students more accurate biomass data to analyse, leading to higher quality student assignments.
In addition to working with Year 11 classes, Tony spoke to middle school students about his work on better crop yields in West Africa. From this, he helped the school establish an agricultural plot giving advice on contacts and resources for growing vegetables in the tropics. Year 9 students have used the plots to design and run crop nutrition experiments.

Year 9 Ag students with their crops

Leanne is very happy with the impact of having a practising scientist in the school. She explains, “As a science teacher I am consistently asked “Why do I need to know this, Miss?”. It is so great to say ‘this is how you will use science’ and ‘here is someone that uses these concepts and skills every day in their job’.”