Blog

Science on the Road – Far West Tour

By: Ashleigh Harrington, Category: Lifelong Learning, Date: 11 Apr 2018

The AM team traversed 3000 kilometres in two weeks to bring science to 350 students from Dubbo to Broken Hill.

Science on the Road events focus on the needs of regional areas, raising awareness of local science, technology and innovation, revealing the relevancy to students lives. Part of this aim is to encourage visitors to become engaged and participate in science activities across multiple fields to increase scientific literacy.

For this Far West trip, the Science Engagement and Events (SEE) team partnered with UNSW Science to deliver an incursion tour from 14 to 21 November 2017. Culminating in the main event – a two-day program held on the 22 and 23 November for high school students at UNSW’s Fowlers Gap Arid Research Station. Although not the first time the Australian Museum has run events in regional NSW, it was the furthest and longest the team has travelled, heading beyond the Central West to Far West NSW.

To maximise the outcomes of the trip, UNSW and SEE coordinated several incursions to schools within the local geographic areas on the way to Fowlers Gap, focusing on the Dubbo, Nyngan and Broken Hill regions. Travelling just under 3, 000km in two weeks the teams presented to over 350 students across the three regions, delivering interactive and engaging science activities.

November 13th saw Ellie and Ash packing up the van with the help of Geoff and Elisa and leaving the Museum bound for Dubbo to kick off the tour. Students from Wellington Public School, Narromine High School and Alesco Learning Centre had the chance to step into the world of forensics with the AM team, delving into the science behind wildlife forensics and crime scene investigation. They also had the chance to look to the stars with Shane from UNSW in the ever-popular planetarium and investigate the chemical reactions that happen in our everyday lives with the UNSW chemistry team.

The Dubbo region provided an excellent opportunity to engage students from alternative schooling programs and Low SES districts and was a highly rewarding experience with students that had never before considered finishing high school, let alone engaging with science, questioning our teams about their career paths. There were lots of questions from students after the show about the career paths of our team and Scientists at the Museum.

After (reluctantly) leaving behind a hoard of excited students and the colourful rhinos of Dubbo the teams headed further west to visit the town of Nyngan, where Science on the Road took over the whole school! Students of Nyngan Public School discovered chemistry in action and astronomy with the UNSW team, and participated in an explosive and immersive Volcanoes, eruptions and more! show with the AM team. A Nyngan Public School Teacher told the SEE team in feedback afterwards that; “it was a fantastic experience for all students and they were very engaged. It opened their eyes to different sciences.”

Following on the team drove through the breathtaking Australian outback to arrive at Broken Hill. Students of Burkeward Public school and Sacred Heart Parish Public School were treated to the planetarium, wildlife forensics and volcano shows, investigating new ideas around science and immersing themselves in a day of science fun!

The trip cumulated with an incredible two days at Fowlers Gap Arid Research Station providing students from the remote region of Broken Hill with the opportunity to engage with science in a way that had never previously been offered to them. This core event saw over 60 students from Willyama and Broken Hill high school participating in four immersive and interactive activities run by the SEE team, UNSW PhD students and Fowler’s Gap station manager, Keith Leggett.

It was incredible to be running workshops for students in Central Australia in such beautiful settings. We felt lucky to be able to share the research and objects of the AM with NSW communities. Programs like Science on the Road are important not only to make the collections and knowledge of the AM and partners accessible to more communities across NSW (and Australia!) but to help build capacity of the sciences in these towns. There are incredible skills, knowledge and projects happening across the state and by promoting Australian science and innovation we support their endeavours and inspire new ideas within these communities.