TV program helps children follow their dreams through to university

22 March 2013

Annette Cairnduff and NRL star Corey Payne with children from Villawood East Primary School.
Annette Cairnduff and NRL star Corey Payne with children from Villawood East Primary School.

Part of the challenge of getting primary school children from under-represented communities excited about higher education is to ignite their curiosity and show them where their passions can take them. The launch of the Enquiring Minds program today addresses this challenge.

A Bridges to Higher Education initiative, of which the University of Sydney is a partner, Enquiring Minds encourages seven to 12 year-olds to connect what they love doing now to their plans for the future.

Delivered via a TV series, an interactive website with teacher curriculum support and online games for children, it features the experiences of 21 primary school students. They meet inspirational university students and professionals who have successfully established a career following interests and passions similar to the children.

Five University of Sydney academics and one graduate appear in the program, encouraging young students to broaden their educational horizons.

They are astronomer Professor Bryan Gaensler, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Science, Dr Craig Barker, Manager, Education and Public Programs, Sydney University Museums, poet Johanna Featherstone, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, social insect expert Dr Tanya Latty, School of Biological Sciences and graduate vet Fabian Barcelo.

During their episodes Dr Barker introduces a Kellyville student to Australia's oldest university museum, Dr Latty introduces a budding entomologist to a rhinoceros beetle and Professor Gaensler explains how studying astronomy is like a cross between solving crimes and finishing crossword puzzles.

Annette Cairnduff, the University's representative on the Bridges Management Committee said: "We know that more than 40 percent of undergraduate students first considered higher education when they were in primary school. To encourage a more diverse range of students into higher education young people need to be both academically prepared and understand the value of higher education."

Enquiring Minds enriches and supports the great work we are already doing with Compass in primary schools supporting students through enriched learning activities and academic support on campus and in school."

"We are proud too that the launch today was held at Villawood East Public School, one of our partners. Students from Villawood East visit the Nicholson Museum, attend Science and Seymour Centre programs and will soon be with us again for the Discover University Day for year three."

Bridges to Higher Education is a $21.2 million initiative which aims to boost the participation of disadvantaged communities in higher education, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program.

It is a is a partnership of five universities (University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Western Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney and the Australian Catholic University) and 10 other partners including Television Sydney (TVS).

Enquiring Minds will be broadcast on TVS from 26 March 2013 and on three other community TV stations nationally.

The series will be available on the web and sent to schools in communities that are under-represented in higher education across the Sydney Basin, as a key resource for teachers, principals, mentors and equity program workers.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342,