School students get a taste of university life

8 May 2014

Almost 700 primary school children enjoyed their first hands-on experience of university yesterday as part of the Year 3 Discover Uni program.

Drawn from 14 schools mainly from Sydney's greater west and south west, each child undertook four of more than 30 activities provided by 12 University faculties, as well as the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Sydney University Sport and Fitness, the Young Scientists of Australia, and the University of Sydney Museums.

Students discovered strawberry DNA, learnt about the law and dentistry, tried out kitchen chemistry, wrapped mummies at the Nicholson Museum, learnt to sing the Yuwallaraay way, and took part in the great spaghetti marshmallow challenge.

Director of the University's Social Inclusion unit Annette Cairnduff said Discover Uni, which is part of the University's Compass program, brought to life the idea that "education and opportunity are lifelong".

"At the University of Sydney we know that people take different paths to achieve what they want in their lives. It isn't that we expect Year 3 students to know what they want to do when they leave school, it is that we want them to know that there is a world of opportunity out there," Cairnduff said. "Because if you don't have someone in your immediate family who has been to higher education you are much less likely to go."

"We want the idea of that opportunity to be present as they go through school. 'Discover' is just the start of their engagement with the University, it's staff and students.

"What Compass is about is introducing the idea, building familiarity, confidence and academic preparation so that when the time comes young people can make informed decisions about their futures - whatever those futures hold."

Eight-year-old Isabelle Allouche from Panania Public School, who wants to be a dentist, said she had been learning about what dentistry involved, what a faculty is and what academics do.

"I've been in the great hall and it's pretty big," Isabelle said. "University's a big school for grown ups - it's like a Harry Potter place."

Classmate Cooper Sutton said he had really enjoyed the day and had learnt a lot.

"I have been doing experimental drawing, and I learnt about the law and about the rules of Australia," he said. "I also learnt about strawberry DNA."

Vicki Miedler, a teacher from Fairfield Public School, said the day had been fantastic.

"There has been lots of different opportunities for the kids to have a look at all aspects of what's on offer at the University of Sydney," Meidler said. "By showing kids all the options that are available here they can have a little bit of a taste test."

"Education offers the world to our students - and especially the students from our school who come from a low socio-economic background.

"We've got 35 percent refugees at our school. Many have never had an education before they've come to Fairfield, so this is a real opportunity for them to see what's out there and what they can actually attain.

"It's a real positive message, and it's those messages that we have to keep sending as teachers, as educators, as parents - that the world's your oyster and you can do anything as long as you try."