A fun-filled year of teaching science to a class of Raymond Terrace Public School students has Natasha Egoroff excited to return bigger and better in 2018.
For the first time last year the research assistant from the University of Newcastle volunteered in a CSIRO program called STEM Professionals in Schools.
The national program partners professionals in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries with schools to bring the subjects to life in classrooms.
Ms Egoroff, whose background is in molecular neurobiology, was partnered with the Raymond Terrace school.
“I visited the school each week, did experiments and spoke with the students of 5/6BW to encourage their curiosity and passion for science,” Ms Egoroff said.
“I’m particularly focused on showing some of my personal female and indigenous STEM role models to the class to demonstrate the accessibility of the STEM industry for female and indigenous students.
“This is a cause very close to my heart.”
Ms Egoroff said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she first began volunteering at the school.
But she was quickly, and pleasantly, surprised by how eager the students were to learn about science.
“These kids are so intelligent,” she said. “They’re already critical thinkers. They’re brilliant and incredibly eager to learn.”
Many experiments she did with the class helped with other aspects of their learning, which included coding robots.
Ms Egoroff is enthusiastic to return in 2018, but in order to continue she is seeking the community’s help.
Resources at the school are limited. Ms Egoroff has been buying materials for classroom experiments herself, which is why she established a GoFundMe account to raise money for the program she has in mind for 2018.
The money raised from the GoFundMe campaign will be used to purchase equipment, materials and chemicals for in-class experiments.
Additionally, the money will used for other aspects of learning such as bus hire for excursions to museums.
“This program is very rewarding for me, and the kids get so much out of it,” Ms Egoroff said.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m teaching them STEM content. I get to do fun stuff that excites them, makes them laugh and makes them think.
“This will plant a seed in them. It creates an interest in science. Shows them it’s not just white lab coats, that science is fun and interesting.”
Raymond Terrace Public School was recognised as being an innovative school in 2017.
In The Educator magazine’s third annual Innovative Schools list, Raymond Terrace public was recognised as one of the 40 schools around Australia that is leading the way in efforts to best prepare students for tomorrow’s world.
As a further nod to the school’s teaching methods, it was the only primary school in the Hunter to be recognised in the 2017 list.
The school won the award for its excellence in 21st century learning.
“Achieving The Educator award was certainly well deserved and reflective of the school’s collective effort to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow,” Raymond Terrace teacher Bernadette van de Wijgaart said.
According to The Educator’s profile on the school:
“Raymond Terrace fosters the development of computational thinking skills among teachers through intensive training opportunities, and its students are enjoying the benefits of coding and information technology development, demonstrated in their application of 21st century skills to real-world problem solving.
“Coupled with a new approach to curriculum interpretation promoting inquiry-based learning and delivery, students are encouraged to forge their own pathways of discovery and problem solving using advanced tools such as Lego Robotics, Ozobots and Spheros, as well as coding software such as Scratch and Bitbox.”