USAUS-H2O Australian teachers workshop held in Brisbane

Bill Dennison ·
25 March 2013
Environmental Literacy | 

On March 18th and 19th, nine teachers and principals traveled from the far corners of the Australian continent to join the U.S.--Australia Virtual Environmental Partnership. The workshop was held in a very nice conference facility at the Sinclair Knight Merz headquarters in the Southbank area of Brisbane. SKM is a large multinational consulting company specializing in water related issues, and Simon Costanzo, IAN Science Integrator worked at SKM immediately prior to joining IAN. Judy O'Neil, the project lead, Cindy Heil from Bigalow Laboratory in Maine, Simon Costanzo and Bill Dennison from IAN rounded out the American contingent. Professor Andrew Campbell, the lead Australian scientist from Charles Darwin University was responsible for recruiting the Australian teachers. Andrew came in from Darwin, provided an overview of the northern Australia and attended the official launch later in the week in Canberra.

Group photo
Participants at the workshop in Brisbane.

The Australian teachers, like their American counterparts, were very impressive in terms of qualifications and passion. They had an amazing diversity of backgrounds and life experiences and clearly brought passion and enthusiasm to the classroom. Two of the attendees were principals and one of the teachers, Dr. David Henderson, studied under the renowned ecologist David Bellamy. David Henderson teaches at Rossmoyne Senior High School in Perth, Western Australia and he has 41 years of teaching experience. David loves to track the global migrations of shorebirds, especially Bartailed Godwits. Richie Furber, originally from Edinburgh, and now teaching science at Essington School in Darwin, Northern Territory regaled us with his stories of researching whale sharks, the world's largest fish. He was particularly proud of his ability to collect various whale shark samples. Rebecca (Bec) Smith from Armidale High School in a region of northern New South Wales talked about exposing her students to applied sciences like agriculture and animal husbandry. While taking a break from teaching, Bec helped start up a kids program called Frog Dreaming which blends creative arts and science. Chris Main from Tannum Sands State High School in coastal Queensland, next to the Boyne River, has a background in chemistry and is teaching applied science to students near some large industrial complexes in the Gladstone region. Chris lived and taught in Japan for ten years before returning to Australia. Eddie Fabjian, the Principal at Centralian Senior College and Alice Springs School of the Air came from Alice Springs in the red center of Australia and talked about the extreme variability in water resources which included artesian groundwater that traveled from far distances, appropriate since they run a distance education program. Susan Nabbs from Notre Dame College (Notre Dame pronounced in French style) in Shepparton, Victoria brought along her principal Emma Reynoldson and they talked about their hands on approach to teaching in proximity to the Goulburn River (a tributary to the River Murray)--note the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority won the Australian Riverprize in 2001. Janet Richardson from Lyneham High School in the Australian capital city of Canberra takes her class to study a restored wetland  at Sullivan’s Creek, where they study water quality and insect life. Janet talked about the extreme temperatures (-10 to 42°C) in Canberra and the variability in flow of their water source in the Murrumbidgee River. Marcel Brown from Don College in Devonport on the north coast of Tasmania takes his students to the rocky intertidal and involves them in a Beach Watch program and surveys the beach profiles. Marcel spent eight months studying penguins on Macquarie Island.

Brisbane workshop.
Australian teachers playing USAUS-H2O conceptionary at

As in the American workshop, teachers played a few rounds of USAUS-H2O Conceptionary and Title Pursuit. They also exchanged small gifts appropriate to their location: Marcel Brown brought Tasmanian honey, Chris Main brought an aboriginal magnet with the symbol of togetherness, David Henderson brought a limited edition Rossmoyne Senior High School key chain, Janet Henderson brought a photobook about Canberra,Bec Smith brought potatoes and acorns, Richie Furber brought an Essington school mug, Eddie Fabjian brought a Centralian hat, and Susan Nabbs brought canned peaches. We all attended an enjoyable dinner in a West End Vietnamese restaurant.

Conceptionary drawing
Drawing produced by teacher playing USAUS-H2O Conceptionary.

Now that we have the full complement of American and Australian teachers on board, we are excited about how this program will develop as these exceptional teachers inspire their students to participate. The USAUS-H2O website will be fun to watch as it gets populated with student data, photos, and videos through the H2O Stories portal.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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