Featured Grants

Program Area C: Education, Arts & Culture

Featured grant: Bendigo Science and Technology Museum

Discovering a love of science
$75,000 over three years

Australia’s economy is set to benefit significantly if we can boost the number of students pursuing further study in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The Discovery Science and Technology Centre in Bendigo (Discovery), in partnership with La Trobe University, has been doing its bit to improve science teaching and learning along with the career prospects of regional young people in Victoria.

Their program, supported by a grant from the R E Ross Trust, trains second year preservice primary school teachers to teach more and better science in country classrooms. The program is linked to the Victorian curriculum and based on the award-winning Primary Connections resources.

In a participant survey after the first year of the program:

  • 76 per cent reported an increase in confidence in teaching STEM
  • 82 per cent reported an increase in competence in teaching STEM
  • 88 per cent said they’d use elements of the program in their teaching practice, and
  • 93 per cent said they’d like to bring their classes to Discovery in the future.

In 2017, preservice teachers studying at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus had the benefit of access to trained science communicators from the ANU and Questacon in Canberra, teaching them experiments and techniques to inspire pupils in the classroom.

The soon-to-be teachers were also provided with resources to take into their new schools when they graduated.

In 2018, preservice primary school teachers from both Bendigo and Mildura campuses were involved in the program with Bendigo Discovery, which hosted workshops in the University environment and on site at Discovery with local Bendigo-based primary schools. The Bendigo Discovery activity afforded preservice teachers an authentic experience of a science-based excursion from the perspective of the teacher, tied to the Primary Connections resources and lessons.

The expectation is that on completion of the program, graduates will come into schools with real life experience and confidence while existing teachers will be encouraged to be open, learn and increase their comfort in teaching STEM also.

When you think that each graduate student will teach nearly 1000 pupils over their career, this is one intervention set to create a ripple effect. It will build on Discovery’s mission of inspiring and nourishing scientific curiosity and their number one priority of helping teachers inspire primary students to love science and study STEM.

The not-for-profit, hands-on science centre at Bendigo Discovery was Australia’s first science and technology centre outside of a major metropolitan area and hosts 30,000 visitors annually.

Visit the Discovery Science and Technology Centre, Bendigo

Featured Grant: Polyglot Theatre Company

Top marks for 5678
$75,000 over three years

A $75,000 grant over three years has funded a project giving a new voice to marginalised and disengaged students in Collingwood and Fitzroy, through the medium of film.

A program to keep inner-city students from diverse backgrounds engaged in education through the arts has provided powerful benefits, according to 5678 Film Club Project Director, Priya Namana.

For three years, Polyglot Theatre has been working with students aged 10 to 14 running an after-school film club called 5,6,7,8, which is giving participants new ways to express themselves and at the same time getting them more involved with their studies

“A lot of these students (many of whom are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and live locally in the public housing and around the school in Collingwood) have been identified as at risk of disengaging with education. Engaging them in drama, narrative, storytelling and script writing is giving them a breadth of expression they may not have had before,” Priya said.

Problem solving and collaboration

“The benefit of taking the project and creating an after-school film club means that you’re away from the classroom model of teaching which can be didactic.

“The after-school club is more about problem solving and collaboration; it’s not an adult telling them what to do, so the expression is freer and not framed by school parameters. It’s more like a ‘club’ so it also creates a sense of belonging.

“What is great is kids finding such powerful ways of expressing themselves,” Priya said.

“We had one extremely shy student who wouldn’t say anything when he first arrived; the change has been remarkable. He’s now confident, expressive, engaged, open and confidently expressing his ideas and opinions because of the technical and socioemotional skills he is developing. Essentially he’s engaging differently because he’s getting used to his own voice.”

Access to a diverse array of people

The benefits of Polyglot’s approach clearly flow to the classroom with teachers commenting on the greater interaction, confidence in expression and commitment to an activity that students look forward to and enjoy.

“We had another group of students demonstrating some behavioural issues and we paired them with a young, male film maker. The change in them just really highlighted the need for a positive male influence in their lives. It’s so important to give students access to a diverse array of people; adults who are prepared to give them their time. These boys developed a great film about overcoming bullying and managing the powerplays in school between student and teacher,” Priya said.

“The opportunity to screen their films and speak about their work, also gives them a sense of pride.”

And the final word goes to one of the participants: “Before Film Club I did different stuff, I couldn’t really manage myself but now I can manage myself a lot. I am very attentive and I listen more and I think before I say more and I am not the irrational self that thinks violence or being aggressive is the way to fi x it. Now I know how to express myself constructively.” – quote from a student at St Joseph’s School in Collingwood as part of a Victoria University evaluation.

Having built a library of films, a festival is now very much on the radar.

Visit the Polygot website. Photos by Theresa Harrison Photography.

Featured Grant: Abbotsford Convent Foundation Towards the Abbotsford Convent Interpretive Signage project

The Abbotsford Convent Foundation used the grant to manufacture and install 27 external signs around the Convent site to tell the story of the place, its different ‘occupations’, the history and uses of the buildings and detail many of the publically accessible rooms in the ground floor spaces. The signs also feature information about the site’s current uses. There were also a further 13 signs produced and installed in the upper public hallways of the Convent building, further telling the site’s story.

There is now interpretive signage across the site, available for viewing by members of the public who visit The Convent for free. The project was thoughtfully and thoroughly implemented by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation. The signage has made an important contribution for visitors, stakeholders (Good Shepherd Sisters, Indigenous communities, the Abbotsford Convent Coalition) and will provide a permanent legacy of the site which is now used by the broader community].

Visit Abbotsford Convention Foundation website