Compass "Day of Inquiry" for Year 9 students

14 December 2012

More than 210 Year 9 students from eight Compass' partner high schools, joined by The University of Sydney academics and students, took part in the Compass STEM Day of inquiry. This pilot program focuses on stimulating discussions, generating inquires and reflecting for future action. All workshops on the day were designed and delivered using a multi-disciplinary approach from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

The Australian Government has identified continued disengagement from STEM subjects amongst high school students. Compass partner high schools have identified increasing disinterest in STEM subjects as a priority area for the program to address. One key way to address this problem is for schools and universities to work together to encourage high schools students to engage with these subjects in a fun and creative way. The day also aimed to help demonstrate to students the full range of both study and career opportunities available in these areas.

The focus for the Compass STEM Day of inquiry was sustainability and how each discipline can play its part to achieve a more sustainable future. Students were faced with three BIG questions on the day that set the scene for every activity they were involved in.

1) Does 'sustainability' matter?
2) What effect does 'sustainability' have on your life?
3) Describe one thing that you can do to help make the Earth more sustainable. Why would that help?

Students were involved in hands-on and stimulating activities to help them to think about the underlying questions. Students practiced environmental rehabilitation, removing motherboards, and strip-mining Tim Tams with Faculty of Science, Information Technology, Engineering, and Education and Social Work staff at the University. They also looked at different techniques and creative ways to create a more sustainable future. Some of the topics explored were:

  • Biology - Mining and the environment
  • Engineering - Building a sustainable environment
  • ICT - Cloud Computing
  • ICT/Design - Creative computing: Designing a better future
  • Physics - The efficiency of solar panels

The workshops focused on the skills involved with studying these subjects, rather than knowledge of subject content, and also increased the school students' understanding on the relevance of these subjects to the "real world" outside of the classroom. The students left with a better understanding of the relationship between the learning taking place at school and the real world of university, research and work. They can continue the discussion in their classrooms on a wiki.

Compass would like to thank and acknowledge the following participants for their contributions:

  • David Ashe, Faculty of Education and Social Work (CoCo)
  • Tom Gordon, School of Physics
  • Sally Parker, Faculty of Education and Social Work
  • Georgina Wilcox, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
  • Kazjon Grace, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
  • Benjamin Bank, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
  • All the workshop leaders and faculty staff and student volunteers
  • Bass HS, Condell Park HS, Fairfield HS, Kogarah HS, Liverpool Boys HS, Liverpool Girls HS, Sir Joseph Banks HS, Westfields Sports HS
  • Student ambassadors
  • Compass volunteers
  • Compass staff
  • Campus security
  • University Venues