Associate Professor Richard John, of Griffith's School of Environmental and Applied Science, pulled off a hat trick this semester with three awards. Moving from global to local he has scored a four-month fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute's National Sciences Resources Centre in Washington DC, a Citation for the Gold Coast Science Educational Regional Award, and an Innovation Across the Institution Award in the Griffith Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
Richard John, whose background is in electrochemistry and analytical chemistry, is one of three Queenslanders announced last week as recipients of an annual Smithsonian Fellowship backed by Peter Beattie's State Government. As head of the Griffith Science Education Alliance – Science Outreach to Queensland Schools, Associate Professor John will take up a four-month position at the Smithsonian from June 2007 to study how the centre has established links with 750 (or 20 per cent) of the school districts in the US. "We've been trying to do that here in southeast Queensland in the Griffith University corridor, and it seemed to me that we might take advantage of that experience" Professor John said. His stint will take in some term time for working with students, and summer holidays, when he will work with teachers on development courses. Professor John expects to teach at the centre about the "senior school-tertiary interface", a Griffith speciality.
And the work will continue after he returns home: "The National Resources Centre has implemented these programs all over the world with the exception of Australasia, so they see this as being an in to their collaborations here." Professor John expects to be the contact for that expansion.
As head of Griffith's Science Education Alliance, Associate Professor John and two of his colleagues visit schools on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane teaching students about science and scientific phenomena.
Basically we just have a blast teaching the students and doing a bunch of really fun, amazing experiments. We do a variety of things like proper shows at the school, the magical chemistry show, trivia challenges, science camp and even a 'myth busters' event which everyone gets really interested in. "The events have been a huge success with our Science on the Go engaging over 9000 students and teachers in 50 different schools and we have plans to extend the project up to Brisbane next year.
It's estimated that in the very near future we will be around 75,000 jobs short in the fields of science and technology so it's really important to us to try and build up those areas.
For me personally, it's just fantastic seeing the joy and amazement on the students' faces as we make things that they thought were 'just science' relevant and exciting.
Associate Professor Richard John
Regional Award for Science on the GO
The Citation for the award of Science Regional Education Award is presented to nominees who have made a significant contribution to Science Education in their geographic area.
The Gold Coast regional award was presented to Associate Professor John and his colleague, Griffith Visiting Fellow, Ms Stacey Ward from the Science Teachers Association of Queensland for the development of "Science on the GO". Stacey Ward was seconded to the project to assist with the development of a set of programs for students and teachers. More than 40 workshops and 10 professional development days for teachers were held with over 500 secondary students having laboratory experiences on 21 separate occasions. In addition 6 "Uni for a day" experiences have been organised for senior secondary students
Innovation Across the Institution Award
The Science on the GO project, lead by Richard John and visiting fellows Ms Stacey Ward and Mr Randall Hall was also one of four programs to receive an "Innovation across the Institution Award" in the 2006 Griffith Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
Science on the GO is described as a partnership and collaboration with Education Queensland (EQ) and several other organisations in the area of science education and science outreach. Central to the success of this partnership are two entities within Griffith University; namely Science on the GO! and the Griffith Science Education Alliance.
Griffith University's science outreach program, Science on the GO!, was launched during National Science Week in August 2005. The aim of the program was to bring focus and coordination to the University's many outreach activities in the area of science education and to provide a mechanism for Griffith academics and students to engage with local school teachers and school students in science education initiatives. The idea was to take people, resources and expertise from Griffith University directly to the classroom of local schools.
The success of the Science on the GO! program was immediate and significant. Lack of suitably qualified science teachers in Queensland schools, combined with a lack of physical resources and changes to the science syllabuses, mean that teachers and schools have been very keen to accept the type of leadership and guidance offered by Griffith University. So much so that, earlier this year, EQ's Regional Executive Director (Mr Glen Hoppner), buoyed by the impact of Science on the GO!, proposed an alliance between Education Queensland and Griffith University. The result is the Griffith Science Education Alliance, a collaborative initiative between Griffith University, Education Queensland and other parties (such as local government authorities, private industries, and the Science Teachers' Association of Queensland).
Griffith Science Education Alliance is designed to provide a coordinated, region-wide approach to science education with clearly identified pathways from primary school, through middle and senior school and into university. Importantly, Griffith University plays an active role at all levels by providing a range of student learning opportunities, curriculum development initiatives and teacher professional development programs. In this way, Griffith University is positioning itself as the central organisation and leader in science education initiatives within its local communities.
Smithsonian website - www.nsrconline.org