Sydney alumni encourage 'enquiring minds' in new TV program

2 April 2013

Three University of Sydney alumni will be appearing in the new program, Enquiring Minds, to encourage young students to broaden their educational horizons.

Part of the challenge of getting primary school children from under-represented communities excited about higher education is to show them where their passions can take them. The  Enquiring Minds program launched this week at Villawood East Public School to addresses this challenge by encouraging seven to 12 year-olds to connect what they love now to their plans for the future.

Delivered via a TV series, an interactive website with teacher curriculum support and online games for children, the program 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.

The alumni who are involved in the program are Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Science and Faculty of Science alumnus, Professor Bryan Gaensler; Manager of Education and Public Programs for Sydney University Museums and Faculty of Arts graduate, Dr Craig Barker; and Veterinary Science alumnus, Fabian Barcelo. They will be joined by Sydney academics Dr Johanna Featherstone, from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and social insect expert, Dr Tanya Latty, from the School of Biological Sciences.

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

"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," said Annette Cairnduff, the University's representative on the Bridges Management Committee. "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."

Enquiring Minds is a Bridges to Higher Education initiative, of which the University of Sydney is a partner, along with four other Australian universities. This $21.2 million initiative, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, aims to boost the participation of disadvantaged communities in higher education. The program  will be broadcast on TVS from 26 March 2013 and on three other community TV stations nationally.