March 2008     
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Towards a National Geoscience Education System:

Invigorating university geoscience

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As a product of the National Summit on the Plight of University Geoscience Education, the Australian Geoscience Council has released two reports. The first, Australian Geoscience Tertiary Education Profile 2007, details the results of a survey of university earth science departments and analyses their current situation. The second report, Towards a National Geoscience Education System is a Discussion Paper that summarises the outcomes from the summit and proposes a way whereby the geoscience community and stakeholders can collaborate to solve the complex issues that underlie the present situation.

An Australian National Tertiary Geoscience Education System (ANTGES) is envisaged as 'A national cooperative program to build human capital and infrastructure in the geosciences from which all stakeholders in Australian geoscience will benefit'. It is envisaged as a devolved system of processes and institutional arrangements to achieve the following outcomes:
  • Appreciation of geoscience as a Nationally Strategic Discipline
  • Geoscience is attractive for universities administrations to support
  • Emergence of a number of larger departments with critical mass in teaching and research
  • Differentiation and recognition of key strengths across the system amongst smaller and larger departments
  • Externally funded teaching /research positions to create independence and engagement with stakeholder groups.
  • Systematic program to attract appropriate numbers and quality of personnel to the geosciences

An Australian Tertiary Geoscience Education Council (ATGEC) is proposed in order to provide a national oversight, recommend and facilitate programs of activity and advice on institutional arrangements, work with government(s) and stakeholder interests to achieve ANTGES. Its work program would focus on attracting students to the geosciences and on working with universities and government to establish the viability and excellence of university geoscience departments. Its aim would not to duplicate existing activities but rather provide national oversight and coordination and to identify and work to fill gaps in addressing the issues. Membership of the Council would comprise high level representation of the profession, employer groups (Minerals Council of Australia, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Geological Surveys etc), universities with a commitment to geoscience.

Over the next few months the AGC will be entering a dialogue with universities, employer groups and government with a view to establishing the proposed Council and its work program in 2008

As this newsletter was in preparation the Government has announced a comprehensive Review of Tertiary Education. This is welcomed by AGC and will provide an important forum for consideration of Tertiary Geoscience Education issues and may well affect the strategic direction AGC has outlined here. It is pleasing to see a response to the issues raised with the Government by the AusIMM and AGC over the last few years including most recently in the Budget Submission process to the new government.

The reports are available in pdf format via these links: Australian Geoscience Tertiary Education Profile 2007 and Towards a National Geoscience Education System

Dr Trevor Powell
President, Australian Geoscience Council

Editorial

Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has initiated his promised 'education revolution'. In the last issue I noted that this is both a threat and an opportunity. It may be too early to tell whether it is likely to be more one than the other but it is also more important than ever that all Earth Science related stake holders remain alert to the possibilities. I urge you all to keep your community informed of developments as you come across them. Let each other know what you have discovered as this new revolution unfolds and send your concerns to GeoEdLink too. If it turns out that there are serious consequences for the teaching of Earth Science as a result of these changes this newsletter is one way in which our community can be further informed.

International Year of Planet Earth has arrived and with it a host of activities all around the world. Teachers, students and the general public will possibly hear more about Earth Science related issues in the next year or so than in years past. To a large extent that all depends on what use we make of the resources available to us. The Australian Science Teachers Association will focus on Earth Sciences in their annual resources book for teachers and students but it is up to teachers, science communicators and others in our community of interest to utilise this and other resources to help make IYPE celebrations a reality. Like most things in life, we will only get out of it what we put in.

Greg McNamara - Editor, GeoEdLink
All feedback and submissions should be sent to the GeoEdLink Editor, Greg McNamara

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Geoscience Education News & Reviews

Earthlearningidea weekly wonders wow

The innovative web site earthlearningidea.com has been wowing educators across the world. Not only does this site draw on the knowledge, talent and inventiveness of geoscience educators from across the globe, it puts up something new, interesting and practical every week! This International Year of Planet Earth activity is designed to create pupil participation for maximum learning. All activities require minimal cost and equipment but, best of all, they're fun!

Log onto the web site, try out the ideas with your students and tell the world what they enjoyed and what they didn't on the blog. In fact, why don't you work up your own gem of an idea that you use every year because your students get so much out of it and share it with the rest of the world?


Geologi 08 and Geoscience Australia asks students to put us in the picture

The Geologi 08 short film competition is on! All Australian secondary school students are invited to submit a short earth science film relating to one of three themes:

  • Natural hazards
  • Earth resources
  • Deep earth
This competition will form part of Australia's Earth Science Week celebrations, assisting in raising awareness of the earth sciences in society and is a significant part of Australia's International Year of Planet Earth 2008 celebrations.

Registration closes on Tuesday 29 July 2008. All entries must be received by Friday 22 August 2008. For your Geologi 08 Entry Pack or more information visit www.ga.gov.au/about/event/geologi.jsp


Geology in mint condition

The Royal Australian Mint has issued a 2008 Six Coin Proof Set recognising the significance of International Year of Planet Earth. The $1 coin is the showpiece, designed by Vladimir Gottwald, depicting a prevailing image of the fragility of our landscape, and the awareness needed in managing immediate impacts.

Visit the Mint shop to order the ideal present for the geologist in your life!


ESWA rocks in WA

Earth Science WA (ESWA) is an organisation that promotes and supports the teaching of Earth and Environmental Science (EES) in secondary schools across Western Australia. The Year 11 and 12 EES course is now in its second year and was offered by 14 schools in 2007 with an increase in the number of schools expected in 2008. The aim is to continue to increase the number of secondary schools offering this course over the next 3-5 years so that eventually all WA students will have access to it. ESWA offers support for teachers of Years 8 to 12 students through both the 'Earth Science Across WA' program based at Scitech which provides curriculum based materials for Years 8-10 as well as ongoing support for teachers of Year 11 and 12 students courses. ESWA wants to ensure that EES teachers have the resources and support to teach and inspire with confidence and enthusiasm. ESWA also wants students, regardless of their future career choices, to have the opportunity to make informed decisions, and to obtain some understanding of the origins of the State's current prosperity

To read the full story, with pictures, download the pdf (4.8Mb): ESWA rocks in WA


Banded Iron Formations may hold the clue to life as we know it

Western Australia's Banded iron Formations in the Pilbara are the focus of a unique research drilling program. Because the 2.45 billion year old Hamersley Banded Iron Formations contain the oldest geochemical evidence for an atmosphere with no oxygen, this drilling would aim to sample the sedimentary rocks that immediately overlie them. Researchers are hoping to get help from the mining industry to complete the 300m drill hole required to retrieve the samples.


The Australian Museum grows teeth
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A new 650 square metre exhibition opens at the Australian Museum this month. It explores how dinosaurs lived and died and how we know. It utilises modern science and cutting-edge technology to tell a 230 million year old story for new generations of dinosaur enthusiasts.

Impressive life-size models will be on display including feathered dinosaurs from China, as well as a diverse range of carnivore and herbivore dinosaur skulls and skeletons - from the well-known T. rex to the bizarre Cryolophosaurus discovered in Antarctica and the intimidating Chasmosaurus with massive frills and horns.

The exhibition also takes a uniquely Australian approach offering a fascinating insight into the type of dinosaurs found in our own backyards and recreating the Australia of pre-historic times.

Dinosaurs forms part of Stage 1 of the NSW Government's $41 million Australian Museum Revitalisation Project.


Hall of Fame calls for more
The Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame seeks to recognise the significant contribution made by individuals or groups of people to the Mining industry by inducting them into the Mining Hall of Fame.

Nominations for the 2008 round are now open. Once an application is received it is assessed by a selection committee chosen by the Board of the Hall of Fame. This insures worthy and honorable individuals and groups are inducted into the Hall of Fame. All nominations close March 31st. Details of the nomination process can be found at www.mininghall.com


Way of the future?
Will mines be automatic and miners be highly skilled technicians and engineers monitoring robots hundreds of kilometers away? Find out what the future might bring according to Rio Tinto: Mine of the Future


On-line resources - links and reviews:

Rio Tinto Big Science Online is waiting to excite

The Rio Tinto Big Science Online site is a fantastic interactive resource for students at junior, intermediate and senior levels. It combines science with information technology to encourage young Australians to explore and engage in science education. The site has Year 7 to Year 12 tasks presented in 3 levels, each with 32 modules which explore a scientific concept, including Earth and Beyond subject areas. Big Science Online is guaranteed to engage students and provide them with entertaining and informative activities, quality feedback on their interactions, useful career materials and links to other useful resources and activities. Teachers are also provided with useful lesson plans and suggestion on how to utilise this resource in the classroom.


The Prospectors and Mining Hall of Fame upgrades online

The wonderful Australian Prospectors and Mining Hall of Fame has a new, exciting web site. There is something on this site for everyone with excellent fact and activity sheets, career information and the impressive Hall of Fame database to name just some of the options for you to surf.


Planets and Stars free via the web
The International Astronomical Union has started a new journal called 'Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal'. Subscriptions to print and online versions are free of charge to communicators. The journal provides astronomy communicators with a mix of resources, opinion and information on how to communicate more effectively to the general public the workings of the Universe. Free subscription forms and the online version of the journal can be found at www.capjournal.org


Play it safe with hazards
Geoscience Australia, supported by Emergency Management Australia, have revamped their hazards web page. It is very user friendly and will be useful for school projects, definitions and for information about and links to historic events. Try it out at Geoscience Australia Hazards.


Silicon summer
The latest issues of Materials Monthly magazine explain how tree rings work, why silicon is seasonal in the deep sea and some of the issues of the uranium debate.


Beat a path to Geoscience Pathways
The value of the Geoscience Pathways web site should not be under estimated. This excellent resource and information site is not only a great source of materials, information and assistance but can also be used to share your resources and students achievements. Join now and help this wonderful facility continue to thrive.


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Geoscience Education Views

NT Scholarship proves its worth but the 2008 award goes unclaimed
Greg McNamara, Director
Geoscience Education and Outreach Services

Darwin's Susan Farquhar became the first Territorian to complete the NT Mines and Energy Earth Sciences/Geology scholarship studies. As the inaugural recipient of the $36,000 Minister for Mines and Energy Earth Sciences/Geology scholarship in 2005 she has excelled at her academic studies, undertaking a Bachelor of Science at Charles Darwin University before heading to the University of Queensland to focus more specifically on geology. She has received many high distinctions as well as the Dean's Commendation for High Achievement in each semester and now looks forward to a promising career in the industry.

This scholarship is a great example of how government can seriously help talented young Australians achieve success and enter a career intimately tied to the future prosperity of all Australians. It is hard to believe that no applications for the 2008 scholarship were received by the closing date late last year. Surely, in this time of resources boom across the nation, there is at least one talented young territorian each year alert to the value of a geoscience career and the excellent opportunities this very generous scholarship offers.

Applications for the 2009 round of the scholarship program will be sent to NT schools in May. It is essential all teachers encourage their most talented science students to apply for this great opportunity. Often, students (and their parents) are so focused on the goal of achieving a good end of year result that they miss vital information such as the existance of such an excellent scholarship. For the sake of the industry and to ensure this wonderful initiative continues in the Northern Territory and hopefully spreads to other states please draw this scholarship and the success of the inaugural winner to your best and brightest sooner rather than later.

For more detailed information about the Scholarship and how to apply please contact Dr Ian Scrimgeour, Director NT Geological Survey, on (08) 8999 5313 or email geoscience.info@nt.gov.au.

Read more here and download the application form here (pdf, 43KB).



Teacher Earth Science Education Programme (TESEP):
Partners still needed

Jill Stevens, TESEP Founder and Chairperson

In the previous editions of GeoEdLink I introduced TESEP and detailed the issues that stimulated its formation and the mission it has set out to achieve. TESEP has received wide spread support from industry, the education sector and professional societies but only some of that support has translated into funding to see TESEP become a reality. As of February 2008, promises of financial assistance have been received from several large companies, some smaller companies, some university groups and some professional bodies. So far, the target required to allow the program to commence mid year has not been met but it is tantalisingly close.

The next few months will be critical in determining how TESEP proceeds. If you are in a position to assist in any way please contact Jill Stevens or Greg McNamara to discuss your participation.

Download a TESEP funding partner flyer here [139kb pdf]...

Jill Stevens
TESEP Founder and Chairperson

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Geoscience Education Events & Activities

Rio Tinto Big Science Competition open for business
It's time to get the thinking caps on! The very popular Rio Tinto Big Science Competition is open for 2008 entrants. Held annually in the third week of May, the competition challenges secondary students from Australian and International schools in Junior, Intermediate and Senior divisions. The competition questions are written by teachers and scientists from all around Australia. Certificates and awards are presented to students to acknowledge their achievement.

Registrations close Friday 4th April 2008 - see the competition web site for registration details.
Competition day is Thursday 22nd May 2008


Australian Science Olympiad qualifying examinations coming up
For the most talented science students, the Australian Science Olympiads are a way that they can show the world what they are made of! Encouraging bright science students to participate in the challenging National Qualifying Examinations is the first step towards seeing them represent Australian in the prestigious International Science Olympiads. Registrations close 27 June 2008. See aso.edu.au for details


2008 is International Year of Planet Earth
Follow this link to find out more about IYPE and this link to browse Australian IYPE events listed so far.


Understanding water and groundwater movements is essential.
The Centre for Groundwater Studies is an international cooperative venture that facilitates leading edge groundwater research, education and training.
Visit the CGS web site for details of up coming courses.


CONASTA 57, Gold Coast 6-9 July 2008
Registration is now open. Several geoscience speakers of note are slated to appear at CONASTA 57 along with some exciting geoscience workshops.


Australian Earth Science Convention, Perth 20-24 July 2008
Support geo-education: attend a presentation at the AESC 2008 Geoscience in the Service of Society education sessions.


Geotourism conference, Perth 17-20 August 2008
Call for papers, posters, industry exhibition, workshops and participation in the Inaugural Global Geotourism Conference, Perth 2008. Promoting wider community awareness and protection of our geological heritage and geosite attractions. This conference will be a hallmark event that promises to set a benchmark for the tourism industry in relation to the development, management and marketing of landscapes. It will highlight its status as a conservation tool, educational process and nature-based tourism activity. Abstracts must be submitted by Monday 31 March 2008.

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