Giant leap for science

By Greg Whitby, 14 August 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

The recent anniversary of the moon landing has provided such a powerful opportunity for reflection and nostalgia. As we celebrated 50 years since this “giant leap” for humankind, students from several Sydney schools flew to Florida as part of the International Space Settlement Design Competition.

As student Pinak from Patrician Brothers’ College, Blacktown said: “This is a very rare opportunity to practise our passion of science and engineering, meet new people from around the world and learn to work in teams on an international scale.”

Today’s school students have a real sense that science is so much more than Bunsen Burners, test tubes, microscopes and lab coats. It’s not just a career path, but a field of learning with the potential to solve pressing global problems and in fact, change the world.

In my own school days, science did not enjoy a reputation for excitement. The learning tended to be presented in a fussy and limited way, though I still recall a few items on the periodic table of elements. Scientists were dismissed as nerds and squares.

The contrast today couldn’t be stronger: there’s such a buzz about STEM education. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and students are being strongly encouraged to get amongst it. The uptake of opportunities like the International Space Settlement Design Competition shows some of the potential for science students!

For me and no doubt many other baby boomers, the moon landing anniversary is a reminder of the passage of time as well as just how exciting science can be! I’m confident that the way we teach science now captures some of this excitement. Perhaps even more importantly, I want every Year 7 science student to know that this once geeky discipline can lead, as Buzz Lightyear puts it, “to infinity and beyond”.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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