Head of Science

Head of Science

Next week we will celebrate Science Week under the theme ‘Destination Moon, more missions, more science’. In movies about the momentous series of missions to explore the moon 50 years ago, a number of stories have stood out to me showcasing the qualities we hope to instil in our students. The classic Australian movie The Dish explores the role that the Parkes Telescope played in relaying the images of the moon landing 50 years ago. Sam Neil’s character, in laconic understatement typical of the time, describe the events as “Science’s chance to be daring”. The fragility of the craft and the trust shown between the astronauts and the support teams was evident in Apollo 13 when a makeshift filter had to be fashioned under extreme pressure from the limited spare equipment on board the damaged craft. Hidden Figures follows Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson overcoming segregation and sexism in the early 1960s. Their work in calculating trajectories and other critical numbers for the Mercury Program shows the obstacles of simple technologies being mastered by women with immense mathematical skill and scientific knowledge. I see parallels in these women with Mary Ward’s epic journey across Europe and her battles with the Church hierarchy of the time.

Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt in The Coddling of American Mind explore how the rise in the culture of “safetyism” is interfering with young people’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. We have noticed some anecdotal evidence of this, including the increase of Year 7 students who are lighting a match for the first time in Bunsen Burner lessons. When I started teaching, generally only one or two  students would be in that category, while in the last few years, some teachers have reported over 50% of their classes striking a match for the first time, visibly shaking and nervous. Real world experiences give us the opportunity to link to scientific learning and develop confidence to identify and manage risky situations, such as:

  • Using tools in households to make and repair things can develop an understanding of levers, inclined planes and wedges.
  • Growing a garden with companion planting allows a student to observe ecosystem dynamics.
  • Producing our own ecofriendly cleaners from vinegar and bicarb soda can show acid base reactions.
  • Building a bonfire can show the fire triangle and the chemistry of combustion.
  • Practising safe handling of food and utensils develops fine motor skills in the kitchen.
  • Exploring the origins of food and materials purchased for the home helps make sustainable shopping decisions.

One of the most powerful pieces of feedback we have received from a student came after she showed a video of her working with her dad to solder an electric circuit for a learning task. She told me she “loved having a chance to spend time and reconnect with him”.

All acts of greatness are built on many simple acts, the challenge for us is to provide chances for our daughters and students to develop their ‘daring’.


Science Week Events

The following events will be happening throughout next week at recess or lunch. Check the screens and announcements for details.

  • Science SCINEMA in the Curran Theatre (a series of short Science films)
  • Build and Fire a rocket competition.
  • Tutor Group Quiz
  • Science Demos in Primary School
  • Annual Science Week Kahoot 

ICAS Science  Competition

The ICAS Science Competition, conducted by Educational Assessment Australia (of the University of New South Wales), will be held on Thursday 5 September in Periods 5 and 6. It involves no cost to you and is a great way for students to test their science knowledge and skills against students from across NSW. The competition takes place each year in schools throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Region and provides an opportunity for all students to gain a measure of their own achievement in an external assessment situation. 

All students will receive a certificate and an individual results letter indicating which questions they answered correctly, their total score as well as their average compared with the rest of the students in the state/region. These documents are suitable for inclusion in a portfolio.

Any student from Years 7 to 12 may choose to enter. If you would like your daughter to participate all she needs to do is complete her details in the survey at this link. Please check your daughter can commit to the competition before entering. Entries close on Thursday 22 August. (No entries can be accepted after this date.)


Mr David Little

Head of Science