Using Japanese to inspire students

Many teachers struggle to make science fun for their students. For a Canberra teacher, this means creating an environment where every student can see the impact of science in daily life. And an Adelaide teacher is keeping kids engaged by teaching science in Japanese.

Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear
Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School in Canberra has created a hothouse of science learning—complete with a seismometer, GPS antenna and weather station, each transmitting real-time data straight into the classroom.

“We all need science literacy to navigate the complexity of the modern world,” says Geoff. So he reaches out to each student’s interests— from genetics to driving to cosmology— to demonstrate the inevitable relevance of science.

For higher achieving students Geoff developed Academic Curriculum Extension (ACE) Science, connecting students with working scientists and engaging them in a wide range of real-world science investigations.

At Seacliff Primary School in Adelaide’s south, Brian Schiller’s students are describing states of matter, mixing of materials, and products of chemical reactions—in Japanese.

“Science can be a basis for teaching many different subjects, such as language, music, numeracy, reading and writing,” he says. “Students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them.”

Brian nurtures creativity through student-initiated investigations, where the students bring the questions and Brian guides them in setting up investigations to get the answers.

But it’s not just the answers that Brian wants his students to get: it’s the ability to use their imaginations to ask ‘what if…?’ or ‘why does…?’ and find their own way to an answer using ‘fair testing’ and experimental controls.

For their contributions to teaching science, Geoff McNamara and Brian Schiller have each received a 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching.

For complete profiles, photos and videos, and more information on the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, visit www.industry.gov.au/scienceprizes

PM Prize for Science_goldmedallion_text

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