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The Scientists of Tomorrow

16 May 2019

Science Mentors ACT Program Launches

The scientists of tomorrow

Students, mentors and supporters of the Science Mentors ACT program launch at Melrose High School last week. Students from Alfred Deakin High School, Amaroo School, Canberra College, Gungahlin College, Kaleen High School, Harrison School, Kaleen High School, Kingsford Smith School, Lake Ginninderra College, Melrose High School, Narrabundah College and Telopea Park School are taking part in the program. (Photo: Brenton Sloane).

Last week the Science Mentors ACT program was launched at Melrose High School.

Science Mentors ACT will provide Canberra public school students in Years 9 to 12 the opportunity to partner with eminent local science and engineering professionals to design and conduct experiments, collect and analyse data, and report on their findings.

An expansion of the Academic Curriculum Extension (ACE) Science Mentors program held at Melrose High School, which was initiated and run by Mr Geoff McNamara AM since 2008, the Science Mentors ACT program offers guidance, expertise and time for students to explore science and engineering with experts in their field.

Fifty-six students from across Canberra are taking part in the program, with almost 50 per cent of that take-up by female students – a fact that Canberra College student Diana Marshall, 16, said was important.

“This program has had strong support for girls,” Diana said. “It has given me the confidence to succeed in a predominantly male environment.”

Casey Magnussen, 16, agreed that the Science Mentors program had helped her develop an interest in science.

“It has given me credibility and knowledge of scientific writing,” Casey said. “It also made me come out of my shell.

“It is inspiring to see all the other girls studying science.”

Casey said that Mr McNamara, who runs the program, had also been a key factor in her interest in science.

“The passion of Mr Mac has an effect. I carry it with me.”

Stuart McKellar, parent of Science Mentors ACT student William, said that the Science Mentors program had been great for his four sons.

“I’m always looking for opportunities for my boys to learn, and they have really enjoyed the science aspect,” Mr McKellar said.

“Every opportunity to have one-on-one teaching is beneficial. It’s amazing to see the engagement (of this program) … having a mentor like this is an incredible opportunity.”

One of those mentors, Professor John Rayner, has been involved with the program since its inception and was happy it had now opened to students across the ACT.

“It brings students out of themselves,” Professor Rayner said. “It builds confidence and understanding. The students have enthusiasm, commitment, they come in out-of-hours … it’s exciting for mentors.”

Professor Rayner said the program taught students how to think like scientists.

“It’s thinking through your hands… the critical importance of documenting everything they do as they do it.”

“The students in this program are special and there is a huge personal benefit to it. Students are getting motivated to go on and do further science.”

In addition to Science Mentors ACT, the ACT Government’s commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education also includes the establishment of the Centre for Innovation and Learning, a purpose-built STEM facility for ACT public school students in Tuggeranong, and the recent announcement to implement an Academy of Future Skills.