Head of Science

Most people would take these facts for granted:

  • Your body has five senses to interact with the environment
  • A paperclip will interact with a magnet, but your body and a tomato won’t
  • The tongue has discrete regions for salty, sour, bitter, umami and sweet
  • There are only three states of matter – Solid, Liquid and Gas

Despite all these ‘facts’ being discredited, they have persisted in the community. This highlights the need to develop critical thinking in our students to discern credible knowledge from the avalanche of false ‘scientific’ claims ideas that have, unfortunately, been given widespread attention in the media this year.

Science has the capacity to constantly amaze. Australian Scientists continue to make discoveries that have the potential to improve our lives. These are as diverse as a new type of flexible concrete made out of waste materials, which is especially suited for earthquake zones[1]; plastic ‘leaves’ that can turn water into an renewable fuel source[2]; and using the shape of a fire to develop a predictive model to help identify the most dangerous fires[3].

 As I write, some exciting reports have emerged about young Australian scientists. Dr Ciara Duffy has discovered that venom from honeybees can kill aggressive and hard-to-treat breast cancer cells. Karlie Noon, the first Aboriginal woman to complete a dual degree in maths and physics, before furthering her studies in astronomy and astrophysics, has just been named the Sydney Observatory’s first astronomy ambassador. This spirit of discovery is being encouraged in Years 7 and 8 as they design, conduct and report on Depth Studies, which have become a key feature of all Science courses and help students to understand the process that trustworthy Science follows.

Bruce Pascoe’s TedX talk: A real history of Aboriginal Australians, the first agriculturalists  examines the journals of the early explorers, expanding our understanding of Aboriginal science and agriculture. It describes evidence of a complex civilisation that was using sophisticated technologies to live, farm and manage the land, including terraced gardens and a complex of walls and holding ponds to act as fish traps. Inspired by this, Year 9 Science and Agricultural Technology students are preparing for their Songlines experience by researching cultural practices and scientific knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that contribute to land management through a deep understanding of the environment.

The school’s Agriculture plot is maturing and, as well as providing a home for our much-loved (and productive) chickens, it also has garden beds overflowing with produce. The Agricultural Technology program has grown, with the first Year 10 cohort cultivating a bumper crop of mushrooms in Term 1. They are now conducting growth trials on lettuce in the newly installed Hydroponics system. Year 9 has been studying egg, sugar and vegetable production and has been growing potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, carrots and snow peas. You might just see a student walking between classes snacking on a piece of broccoli!  Both courses offer students the opportunity to study various aspects of animal and plant production, including biology (anatomy and physiology), technology, business management and marketing, and the role of Agriculture in the Australian economy. There is also a strong focus on sustainability and ethics. Students are challenged to be informed and think critically about various issues, including live exports of sheep and cage egg production.

 

Mr David Little

Head of Science

[1] Behzad Nematollahi, from Swinburne University) https://stories.scienceinpublic.com.au/fresh-science/bendable-safe-long-lasting-and-green-cement-free-concrete/

[2] Chun Hin Ng, from Monash University) https://freshscience.org.au/2016/plastic-leaves-turn-water-into-fuel

[3] Dr Rachel Badlan and Associate Professor Jason Sharples are part of a team of experts from UNSW Canberra and ACT Emergency Services) https://freshscience.org.au/state/act/predicting-firestorms