November 2009     
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Changing Faces

Michael Leggo

After three solid years as President of the Australian Geoscience Council, Trevor Powell has stepped down but will continue his involvement with Council as the immediate Past President. He has also indicated his desire to remain a member of the TESEP Advisory Council.

I have been an industry professional since leaving an enjoyable albeit frugal existence as a long term research student due to the need to support a family. Since then I have had two major international careers, one in mineral exploration and development management and the other in environmental management and sustainable development, plus some years in outplacement and career management consulting. Hopefully the two principal streams form the basis for a reasonable perspective on environmental and earth sciences.

I am pleased to report on what I believe is the good progress being made in establishing a National Science Curriculum in the Senior Secondary Years as outlined in ACARA's Position Paper dated August 2009. The AGC is particularly concerned about the adequacy of supply of geoscience graduates into the Australian workforce and thus about the encouragement of high school students to undertake studies in science in the first instance. The resource sector is a major participant in the Australian economy and provides employment opportunities for young people throughout Australia, especially in country regions. Our Council anticipates that the inclusion of environmental and earth science as one of the four science courses will influence some of these students to undertake geoscience studies at university level.

In the AGC's submission to ACARA we had little to add to the content of the obviously thoroughly thought out position paper except to suggest the addition of 'history' in item 24d in the Science section on page 9. We suggested that earth science also critically requires a study of the earth's geological history and so we recommended that the first sentence should read Environmental and earth science, which involves the study of the earth's systems, history and processes in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

The principal purpose in responding to the position paper was for the AGC to offer to furnish names and relevant details of appropriate geoscience specialists who might be able to supplement the curriculum advisory panel, or at least furnish specialised expertise where this would be of value to the panel.

Dr Michael Leggo
President, Australian Geoscience Council


It is with great pleasure that I report that Len Altman, Earth Science teacher at Marden Senior College SA, has recently been awarded the Prime Ministers science prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools. The award, presented to Len by the Prime Minister in Canberra, could not have gone to a more deserving recipient. Len exemplifies everything we, as a community, need in a teacher. At his own school, Marden Senior College, there are now more students in geology and geoscience than any other school in South Australia, proof enough of Len's effectiveness in raising the profile of Earth Sciences in the student body.

As with any award, there are other worthy nominees who did not get a mention this year and there are also thousands of teachers across the country all as dedicated and as enthusiastic as Len. They all deserve recognition for their efforts and I encourage you to make sure the teachers that have inspired you or your children at least get the reward of hearing that directly from you. This may not seem like much but such feedback is just as valuable as any gold medal to those who receive it.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

Earth Science Week 2009 Celebrations
All around the nation and across the world schools, organisations and individuals celebrated the 12th International Earth Science Week. 2009 was a great year, so what are you planning to do in 2010 to make it even better?

ESW logo
Earth Science Week 09

To kick off the 2009 celebrations, the winners of the national student short film competition, the Geologi09, were announced at an official screening and awards ceremony held on 12 October at Geoscience Australia.

Over 400 students across Australia produced and submitted short films for the competition, hosted by Geoscience Australia and the Australian Science Teachers Association. The films were judged on science content, creativity and theme. Entries received highlighted Earth Science themes such as natural hazards, geological time and Australia's natural resources.

The senior gold Geologi was won by 'Movements of the Earth' produced by a Year 12 student, Paul Kipriotis, from Tully State High School (QLD). The junior gold Geologi was presented to students from Presbyterian Ladies' College (WA) for their short film 'Oil'. In 2009, Geologi included a primary aged category for the first time, with students from St Therese Primary School (NSW) taking the gold Geologi for their film 'Volcanooo!'

See the Geologi site for pictures of the winners and details on how to enter the 2010 competition (2009-2010 Activity Calendar).

and for details of Earth Science Week events globally and plans for 2010.

Geoscience Australia's Education Centre celebrates 10 years of Earth science education.
Signing the book
Signing the Visitors Book at Geoscience Australia's Education Centre
The Geoscience Australia Education Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary during Earth Science Week 2009. Since October 1999, over 48 000 school students have visited the facility based in Canberra. The Centre provides free, engaging, hands-on and age appropriate activities to all visiting schools, aiming to raise awareness and interest in geoscience topics, amongst both primary and secondary students.

Education activities at Geoscience Australia extend beyond the Centre, with the provision of special programs for ventures including the National Youth Science Forum, the Science Experience, Earth Science Week and National Science Week.

In addition, teacher professional development has been an important aspect of the Centre's role, and has ranged over the past 10 years from the provision of posters, information and student activity booklets to fieldtrips as far away as Hawaii.

Over the last 10 years, the expansion of internet access has meant that teachers all around the country are now able to easily obtain many of Geoscience Australia's education resources. All Australian schools are welcome to book a visit to Geoscience Australia in Canberra or access on-line resources via

Queensland student awards
Congratulations go to all who received awards at the Royal Queensland Show, otherwisw known as the EKKA, from the Geological Society of Australia Queensland Division.
University undergraduate Medals for 2008
Larissa Hansen University of Queensland
Lisette Brittan Queensland University of Technology
High School Medals for 2008
Gold medal Frances Potter Spinifex State College, Mount Isa
Silver Medal Michael Cruickshank Brisbane Boys College
Bronze Medals Teagan Walsh Pioneer State High School, Mackay
Nicholas Davison Brisbane Grammar School
Alexander Turton Brisbane Grammar School
Simon Mahler Brisbane Boys College
Kendall Messer Townsville Grammar School
Peter Deagon Redlands College
Certificates of Rhys Volant Townsville Grammar School
Excellence Rachel Ford Pioneer State High School, Mackay
Elizabeth Kippen Redlands College
Will Baskerville Brisbane Grammar School
Jack Murday Brisbane Grammar School
Benson Poon Brisbane Grammar School
Fred Croker Brisbane Grammar School
Michael McConnachie Brisbane Grammar School

Jurassic in Australia gets a boost
The international journal GFF has released a new issue entitled The Jurassic - climate and biodiversity. Within is a major review on the Jurassic of Australia and the state of play in understanding marine/non-marine correlation in our region. Find out more about this and other GFF publications here. (Look under Free Articles)

Science Week rocked the goldfields in WA
The Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame was abuzz during Science Week as hundreds of school children from both primary and secondary schools visited the Rock Festival in Kalgoorlie. This major event afforded students the opportunity to access a hands on experience in the science of mining. The students were delighted to take part in the day's activities which included volcanic eruptions, fossil making, conservation, mine rescue and gold exploration. The day was successfully topped off with a resounding performance by a local rock band. Read more here.

Teaching award for geology team at University of Adelaide
The Geology teaching team is congratulated on being awarded a 2009 Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation for the creation of a community of practice that anchors field-based learning, and develops an enduring sense of belonging and camaraderie between staff and students. Read this and other citations by following this link..

No excuse not to go to the Pilbara now
The Geological Survey of Western Australia has just published a new book, Discovery Trails to early Earth - a traveller's guide to the east Pilbara of Western Australia, and it is without doubt one of the best books of its type available. The book takes travellers on a journey along six trails that radiate from Marble Bar to discover ancient giant vocanoes, extremely ancient sedimentary rocks, stromatolites, meteorite impact detritus and evidence for ancient glaciers in this now arid land. It is well written, easy to understand, has precise roadside descriptions, GPS coordinates and much more. No road trip to the Pilbara should be planned without it! Discovery Trails to early Earth.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

MIT go on-line for FREE!
MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content and it is now on-line and available to the world for FREE. MIT OpenCourseWare is a free publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT although it may not entirely reflect the full content of every course. The variety of material is amazing and if ever there was a site for extending the reading and learning opportunities for advanced students, this is it. There is even a section that highlights the most useful materials for high school teachers and their students. MIT OpenCourseWare

Volcanoes and Earthquakes come alive
This software, Seismic-Eruptions, uses up-to-date data on earthquakes and volcanoes to build maps that allow students to discover plate boundaries, the dip direction of subduction zones and much more. Best of all, it is free and the data sets are constantly updated so your classroom activities can always refer to the most recent events as well as the historical material.

Google maps the boundaries too
When you teach plate tectonics the more visual the teaching aid is the better. Follow this link and discover yet another use for Google Maps!

Emergency Management Australia
Help the residents of Dingo Creek prepare for and deal with a natural disaster or follow this link to an excellent resource on the Natural Hazards facing Australia and the region.


Geoscience Education Views

Acceptance speech for the 2009 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary School
Mr Len Altman, Marden Senior College, South Australia

Recipient of the 2009 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Editors note: In the editorial I mentioned the award that Len Altman received and how inspirational teachers like Len can be. I was not present at the awards ceremony but those who were there inform me Len's speech was also delivered in a truly inspirational manner.

Prime Minister, Senator Carr, distinguished guests,

While I do feel proud and honored to receive this award I want to make it perfectly clear that I have not worked alone. There have so been many others involved without whom there's no doubt I wouldn't be here tonight, colleagues at Marden Senior College, teachers in other schools, people in TAFE and Universities, in Industry and government departments and so many students, from whom I've learned so much about teaching over the years.

I haven't been working alone. For me, networking and collaboration have been the key, particularly in science teaching, because of the need to keep up to date with new developments and current issues.

I'm also thankful to the support of the sponsors of the Geoscience Pathways website, particularly the Geological Society of Australia and the PESA.

I'm thankful for the work of colleagues and sponsors of TESEP, the numerous geoscientists in industry, professional associations, universities and the ASTA.

Some personal opinions:

I am absolutely delighted about the long overdue upgrade of the Geology lab. at Marden, for which I thank Prime Minister Rudd, sincerely.

I also highly commend and appreciate the emerging National Science Curriculum, within which Earth and Environmental Science will soon become required in all schools and widely across year levels. I believe that it has a well-deserved place. EES can indeed lead to renewed interest in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, as well as (I believe) having enormous value in its own right . I believe that in 12 or 13 years of schooling students deserve the opportunity to learn something about the planet Earth.

I believe that we need a generation of Australians who are able to think scientifically, use evidence to make up their minds about issues, participate in informed debate about topics like climate change, water, about nuclear power, alternative energies and understand the need to find a sustainable future.

We need a younger generation who know how to make decisions based on real evidence, and not just on opinions expressed by journalists and, (if I dare say so) - politicians.

The decline in uptake of traditional science in the senior secondary year levels is by no means unique to Australia. This was clearly indenitified by the Perth Declaration, made on behalf of 1000 science educators from 50 countries: school science does need to become more engaging and relevant to the everyday life and times of students, very few of whom may aspire to become scientists.

An associated critical need, (also identified in the Perth Declaration) was for the ongoing Professional Development of science teachers because, for some there has been a a lack of training or they have been alloacted positions requiring them to teach beyond their levels of experience, knowledge and confidence.

Addressing teacher recruitment and retention is clearly also critical. For example, there are currently only 5 aspiring trainee EES teachers in SA.

Finally, a couple of personal matters:

Firstly: it's true that my mother did want me to be a dentist. Most of my fellow dentistry students, have long since retired because they didn't need to work to age 66. Which raises a question about our society. Why do we value those who look after our teeth so much more highly than those who care for the hearts and minds of the next generation?

Secondly: I have been a single parent for most of the last 20 years, balancing (mostly a full time) career and parenting. I want to thank my children, (two of whom are here tonight), for their understanding and support, and I would like apologize to them for those weekends when I had little time to spend with them, because of my work and my passion for teaching.

and, finally: I noticed that two of last years Science award recipients, (who were both women and mothers), were commended by Bernie Hobbs for successfully balancing their family and career commitments so, I just wanted point out - Dads can do it too.

Thank you

Len Altman talks about his work as an Earth Science teacher


Geoscience Education Events & Activities

Geoscience in the Service of Society
The Australian Earth Science Convention will be held next July in Canberra. One of the major themes, Geoscience in the Service of Society, will be running a sub-theme specifically on matters relating to eduction. It is not too late to put in an abstract!

CONASTA goes to Sydney
The annual conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association CONASTA59 planing is underway and will be hosted by the University of Sydney in July, 2010. Now is the time to be planning your presentation or at least your attendance at what promises to be a great gathering.

Teacher Earth Science Education Programme
After the succesful implementation of the first two in a series of eight Professional Development Workshops, TESEP is now running PDs around the country on the Rock Cycle, Climate Change, Greening Coal [carbon capture and storage] and the origin of Hydrocarbons. Geothermal energy and Groundwater will be next. Visit to find out when the PDs will be offered in your area.

Earth Science Week 2010 - start planning now
Earth Science Week 2010 events will be held next October. It may seem a long way off but before you know it it will almost be too late to plan that event or get that masterpiece of film finished for the Geologi competition!

Groundwater Short Courses for 2009 and 2010
The Centre for Groundwater Studies offers a variety of short groundwater courses. If you are interested, view course dates and further course information here.


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