Master in Conservation Biology at the University of Queensland
An explosive approach to science communication! Utilising engaging visual science demonstrations and hands-on workshops to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals
I am a science communicator and lead presenter for Street Science. I provide engaging, and curriculum aligned science education to students aged four all the way through to high school. I have a background in zoology and conservation biology, but I teach many different disciplines of science including chemistry and physics. In my role at Street Science I have designed, developed, and presented products that engage young Queenslanders in STEM.
I love science because it can provide answers to so many questions about our world. I found through my education that there is so much amazing scientific knowledge out there, but it can’t reach wider non-scientific audiences due to the daunting jargon and bland presentation. However, I believe if we can communicate this information in an exciting and engaging way it could have a much more significant impact on our greater society, especially on the future generation of STEM professionals.
I envision Queensland continuing to grow and develop in future generations, especially in STEM fields. My regular day at work consists of inspiring and engaging these future generations for a career in STEM. I present engaging, curriculum aligned, science education to schools throughout Queensland. I believe that if we want to encourage the next generation to consider a future in science, it is essential that we demonstrate what this could look like. We can’t just tell them how amazing science is – we must show them!
Through this role I have interacted with students who may not normally be engaged with science. This includes regional trips from our Brisbane office to areas such as Dirranbandi, Millmerran, Toowoomba, Toogoolawah and Gympie. I have conducted livestream shows to regional schools such as Mt Nebo State School but also to remote students all over Australia facilitated by Virtual Excursions. I have had opportunities to work with students who don’t have a traditional learning experience due to disabilities, illness, or social limitations. This includes working with POD Australia to provide a live-streamed science experience for students with hearing disabilities. I have visited the Gold Coast Childrens Hospital and performed a science show and hands-on activity for children on the ward. Finally, I have engaged students at Arethusa College, which provides an alternative learning structure for students who have not accustomed to the traditional schooling experience. The structure of my scientific presentations and hands-on workshops is not a typical science class and does not exclude any student from participating. They do not need to have the best grades in science or specific prior knowledge to excel which instils self-confidence in the student that a career in science could be for them. Before I have even started teaching, I have had students say to me “I can’t do this experiment because I’m not very good at science,” on more than one occasion. I always respond with reassurance that anyone can do science and enjoy it! This highlights the importance of science communication to Queensland as it is engaging students that may not normally consider a career in STEM, increasing the diversity in the field.
As the products that I present are curriculum aligned this also assists in supporting the teachers in introducing or reinforcing the content that they are working on in class. This provides a better learning experience for the students and a proportion of the schools have recognised this by incorporating the Street Science products into their teaching plans annually. This is beneficial to the Queensland education system and provides more STEM-inspired graduates. I am able to initiate and foster a love of science in kids that will influence their future education and career decisions. Additionally, upon completion of my Master’s in Conservation Biology, I aim to develop programs that inspire the next generation of scientists in important fields such as climate change science and conservation science. Ultimately, this will produce a higher quality of STEM professionals and enhance the STEM industry in Queensland.
As a child I remember loving performing and sharing my knowledge with as many people as I could. I entered the talent shows, joined performing arts groups, and would want to tell whatever I had learnt at school to whoever would listen. However, as I entered high school and became a teenager I experienced a shift in my attitude towards performing. All of a sudden, I had no self-confidence and no longer wanted to stand out. The stage that I had loved was now a nightmare and imagining a crowd staring at me would make my heart sink. I had developed such stage fright that even for assessments, such as speeches, I would have to do it with only the teacher in the room. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, my voice would shake and I would want nothing more than to run away. This was incredibly frustrating as I loved sharing knowledge and entertaining people but I could no longer do it. Throughout my university studies, I made a commitment to myself that I would improve on my public speaking and be able to enjoy this way of communicating once again. Now, I have presented and performed in front of crowds of over four hundred people and have engaged over 18 500 students last year alone without a single voice shake. Unfortunately, there can still be societal pressure for young girls and women to be meek and unobtrusive. This can limit how many female voices we hear in a number of fields, especially STEM. I experienced this firsthand but have shown that even if you have internalised these attitudes, you can overcome them and follow your passions. I am a role model for young girls and women in STEM as I am not afraid of being heard. In fact, I make my voice as loud as I can and attract as much attention as I can to share my passion for science with the world, whilst encouraging more women to do the same.
Through my science engagement of primary aged students, I have received a few of the same comments over the years. One comment that I commonly receive at the beginning of my presentation is that I do not look like a ‘real’ scientist. Kids often question whether I am actually a scientist after I introduce myself as one. I believe this is because children only know what they are exposed to. A young female standing in front of them does not represent what they have been taught to recognise as a scientist. I am a role model for young girls throughout Queensland as I teach and demonstrate that absolutely anyone can be a scientist if they want to be. This opinion is validated with comments that I regularly receive after my science presentations as young girls will often come running up to me to let me know that when they grow up, they want to be a scientist just like me.
In 2022 I engaged with over 18 500 students. My work involves communicating science with students every day in a range of exciting shows and interactive workshops. A typical show is a high energy demonstration of different experiments whilst discussing a range of scientific concepts. These experiments are incredibly visual with shows typically incorporating fire, liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and explosions. Not only do these shows engage and excite the students but they are also curriculum aligned. Therefore, the show reinforces the learning they are undertaking in the classroom whilst providing enthusiasm and entertainment that cannot always be produced in a classroom setting. The interactive workshops are an opportunity for students to get hands-on with resources relevant to their current curriculum focus. These workshops are engaging and applicable to what they are learning in the classroom. This play-based approach, where students have some freedom to explore, make mistakes, and investigate, has been shown to provide more effective learning experiences. This style of science communication can allow for greater engagement from students who do not normally thrive in a traditional classroom setting.
I have presented at several STEM engagement events for the wider community. These include ‘Logan LEAF Festival’, ‘Sydney Science Festival’, ‘Croucher Science Week’ (a livestream to Hong Kong) and the ‘Street Science National Science Week Launch Event 2022’ which was broadcasted to families throughout Australia. I have also recorded an experiment tutorial with National Science Week Australia to encourage kids to get involved with National Science Week in 2021. During school holidays, community engagement events become my typical workday. This can include working in shopping centres running science activations and/or shows; presenting science shows and workshops in libraries; performing at agricultural shows; and other community events such as fetes and parties. These events engage audiences of both scientific and non-scientific backgrounds including women and girls.
I have also assisted in the design and development of a number of Street Science programs that will reach new and wider audiences. This includes a partnership with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for a new Atmospheric Science show and Classroom Kit, a self-facilitated workshop with video instructions, to engage senior high school students with QUT’s new Bachelor of Science. I have also developed kits to be provided to ‘Junior Engineers’ for their upcoming holiday STEM program. Additionally, I developed teaching plans for products sold in our eCommerce store that are available to remote or home-schooling customers to engage as many Australian kids as possible.
Street Science has recently received a Women in Stem and Entrepreneurship grant which has funded the SISTA project. This project aims to inspire the next generation of women in STEM all over Queensland and other regions of Australia. This will be achieved by travelling to more remote and regional areas than ever before and providing repeated exposure of our science programs by revisiting annually. This will allow a connection to be developed with young girls who are intersectionality disadvantaged and encourage them to consider a future in STEM.