April 2015      
      Dear  Reader / Subscriber
      Welcome to this edition of
      Your geoscience e-newsletter courtesy of the Australian Geoscience Council

AGC logo

     Feature article | Geoscience News | Geoscience Views | Geoscience Activities
     Subscribe/Unsubscribe details can be found at the foot of this newsletter.      Click here to read as a web page.

A message from the AGC President

Bill Shaw and Shona Blewett at the GA Education Centre

Shona Blewitt and Bill Shaw with some of the many sedimentary columns
and other vivid displays.

I have a message for all geoscience educators - if you have not yet done so, try and engage directly with the Education Centre at Geoscience Australia in Canberra. I recently had the opportunity to visit Shona Blewett and colleagues there where I was warmly welcomed and totally sold on what they are doing. From previous articles you know that my early interest in geology stems from a love of rocks. As a professional mining geologist I now know a lot about the science, but fundamentally I like rocks in all their forms, particularly for the stories they tell. An early love of reading came from my amazement at the way knowledge is stored in books and can be passed on. For me rocks are just like books - they each have a story (yes, a history) and we can read them to gain insights to the conditions under which they formed, and how our planet has changed over time.

Bill Shaw and Shona Blewitt at the GA Education Centre

Adding a record to the sedimentary columns that record important visits
to the Education Centre at Geoscience Australia.
Note the enthusiasm as we wait for possible disruption (turbation) by bubbles
degassing from deeper down (unfortunately not this time!).
Perhaps this new layer of white sand will soon be compressed by a visit from your class?

At Geoscience Australia groups of school children arrive and become newly enthralled at what geoscience has to offer. The group of about 25 that I saw already had a good grasp of basic rock types (the igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary families) and were keen to engage as soon as they sat down in a group. The visit started with an explanation of how layers of sediment can build up over time to form a stratigraphic column that can be read 'like a book'. A volunteer had the chance to add a 'record' to one of the water filled columns that are starting to line the room. A scoop-full of coloured pebbles, sand or clay is dropped into the current column to record the visit of that group. This is a dramatic, visual way of demonstrating how every layer in the columns (and in sedimentary rocks) has a story to tell - in this case that they were there that day.

Your enthusiastic correspondent had the great good fortune to be invited to record my visit. The photos below indicate the process and the result, as well as some general pictures of the Education Centre. It is my earnest hope that you can all at some stage make the effort to get there (hope you have room in your calendar Shona!). I have also been encouraging a number of influential individuals to also make the effort to visit, so that they can understand the pressing need for more geoscience education at all levels, and to record their commitment to geoscience right there in the rock record.

You can contact the Education Centre Coordinator at Geoscience Australia through http://www.ga.gov.au/education (where you will find a virtual tour and links to numerous classroom resources) and by email at education@ga.gov.au. For those many of you who have already added to the 'record', please share your great experiences with us and your colleagues.

In a future message we will discuss the National Rock Garden in Canberra - also well worth a visit.

Bill Shaw
President, Australian Geoscience Council


In December I noted the curriculum review commissioned by the Commonwealth Government had been tabled and the Minister had provided an initial response that concluded: … the Australian Government will be working through the recommendations, suggested actions and options for implementation with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments' Education Council. State and territory education ministers discussed this at their Education Council meeting in March and have unanimously requested the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) address the issues highlighted in the Australian Government's initial response to the Review. ACARA have announced they will address the overcrowding and rebalancing of the Australian Curriculum identified in the review by:

   •   reducing the quantity of content, adding more depth and less breadth
   •   combining history, geography, civics and citizenship and economics and business into a single combined humanities and social sciences subject for primary schools
   •   improving clarity, reducing duplication and complexity – especially in the way cross curriculum priorities and general capabilities are presented
   •   strengthening the presence of phonics and phonemic awareness
   •   improving the accessibility for all students, especially those with disabilities
   •   improving parent accessibility to the curriculum through the production of appropriate information for parents.

As I cautioned previously, we need to be alert to the possibility that there may be an attempt to reduce the Earth and Space content in order to save other content, as per the first dot point, especially since the government's response extended the reports proposed content and coverage reduction through to Year 10. At the time of writing ACARA had not responded to a request to clarify whether stakeholders would have an opportunity to provide feedback on any content changes they recommend. See the education minister's press release here.

On a brighter note, the inaugural Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School was a big success (see article below). It enabled 15 extremely talented students to spend two weeks in January at the Australian National University learning a great deal about Earth and Environmental Science while having a great time along the way. These students have had their eyes opened to the academic and career possibilities offered by the discipline in a unique and dramatic fashion. Their academic and career directions will be watched closely given that none of them study Earth and Environmental Science at school and most had not considered the study and career directions of the discipline prior to the summer school. In June the team selected from the summer school group to represent Australia at the International Earth Science Olympiad will be announced. In the meantime, teachers should be encouraging all their high achieving year 10 and year 11 students to sit the Australian Science Olympiad exams - including the Earth and Environmental Science exam - in August. The exams are a great learning experience and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that can flow from them should not be underestimated, even when the subject is not the student's preferred area of study. Find out more here: Australian Science Olympiads.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School 2015 and beyond

January 2015 saw the inaugural Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad (EESO) Summer School organised by Australian Science Innovations (ASI) hosted at the Australian National University in Canberra. The live-on-campus program was designed to engage highly capable secondary school students in an intensive summer school, with content the equivalent of, or a little above, first year university level. The students, selected on the basis of a very competitive and difficult exam that they sat in August 2014, all excel at school but found themselves challenged by the new material and the Earth Systems Science approach to teaching Earth and Environmental Science.

2015 Summer School group

        The inaugural 2015 Summer School Students (two rows standing)
        Left to Right:
        Back row: Mohammad Vohra, Ricky Chung, Ethan Kucka, Tavish Eenjes, Daniel Han-Chen, Daniel Ho, Tim Hume, Yutong Ji
        Middle row: Eddy Dong, Andy Wang, Cindy Liu, Jade Pham, Jacques Burns, Sacha Mann, Zoe Thompson
        and the Summer School teaching team
        Front row: Bronte Nicholls, Suzy Urbaniak, Greg McNamara, Leo Pure, Eilidh Cassidy

Students were immersed in the science for over 14 hours each day and found themselves learning a huge variety of material totally new to them that included traditional mineralogy and geology through to the planetary behaviour of the atmosphere and hydrosphere and the nature of the rocky planets and much more besides. The intense two week long program also included guest lectures, including one from Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, visits to research laboratories, a visit to Geoscience Australia and the Tsunami Warning Centre and a field trip. A day off to explore Canberra, ice cream made with liquid nitrogen and opportunities to interact with around 80 other like-minded students and their summer school teachers all added to the fun that culminated with a celebratory dinner on the last evening.

The 2015 EESO Summer School not only aimed to engage these students in an amazing learning experience but also sought to identify the four most suitable students to represent Australia at the 2015 International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) which will be held in Brazil in September. A combination of in-class tests and end of summer school examinations was used to make the final, difficult selection. The team for IESO 2015 and all the other Olympiad teams have been selected and will be formally announced in June. Team details will be published on the ASI website at https://www.asi.edu.au/site/programs_aso.php in June after the blazer presentation ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.

2015 exams for 2016 Summer School
The Australian Geoscience Council supports ASI and the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School and encourages teachers to enrol all their high ability Year 10 and Year 11 students to sit the Australian Science Olympiad exams - and especially the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam. The exam is designed to identify high ability students with excellent critical thinking skills. Content knowledge other than that required by the national science curriculum K-10 is not an expectation and while studying Earth and Environmental Science in Year 11 may be seen as an advantage it is worth noting that none of the inaugural 2015 Summer School students were studying Earth and Environmental Science when they sat the exam. Read more about the exam and how to enrol students here: https://www.asi.edu.au/site/asoc_exams.php

Support for students studying for the 2015 exams
ASI has identified that students and their teachers will benefit from study guides based around the previous national exams and related content. This has resulted in the development of an online facility that meets these needs through interactive tutorials and links to other resources. This will prove especially useful for those students enrolled in the EESO exam who are not currently studying Earth and Environmental Science at school. Read more about the new online facility here: http://asoeonline.edu.au/ and start using it for free by logging on here: https://www.asi.edu.au/site/olympiads_online.php

 All at sea: Join the JOIDES Resolution March 31- May 31

The JOIDES Resolution (JR) is exploring to better understand the interaction between the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau uplift and the development and evolution of the Indian summer monsoon in Expedition 355: Arabian Sea Monsoon. The JR education program invites students to join live ship-to-shore conferences and you can still apply.
To find out more click here.

 A chance to attend the Asian Science Camp, August 2015, Thailand.

The Asian Science Camp aims to promote international cooperation and networks among the best young science students of the next generation in Asia, Australia and Oceania. During the six-day camp students attend world class plenary sessions, round table discussions and student master classes. Application must be submitted by midnight Sunday 19 April.
Apply now! Read more here.

 Get into gear with Top GeoShot 2015

Geoscience Australia's 2015 Top GeoShot photographic competition is now open. The theme for this year's competition is "Rock Stars" with a closing date of 1 September 2015. To participate, simply take a photograph that represents rock features in the Australian landscape.

There are three categories for this year's competition:
   •   Open 18 years +
   •   Intermediate 13-17 years old
   •   Junior 12 years and under.

A panel of Geoscience Australia staff will select the winning images. Winners will receive a professionally framed enlargement of their image and a copy of Shaping a Nation: a geology of Australia.
Find out more here.
Download the flyer here.

 Pre and Post CONASTA field trips

CONASTA 64 will be in Perth from the 5th to the 9th of July this year. Why not join ESWA for a pre-conference field trip to explore the geology of the Southwest (3-5th of July) or for their excursion to explore the geology of Perth (9th of July)? To register your interest in either event or to ask questions please contact Jo Watkins, Chief Executive Officer, Earth Science Western Australia on jo@earthsciencewa.com.au (preferred) or 0419 194 845. There is also a large number of other Earth Science related activities at this years' conference so it is sure to rock!

 Plate Tectonics - the poster!
PT poster

The Teacher Earth Science Education Programme (TESEP) will soon launch its full colour A1 Plate Tectonics poster and a range of associated support materials. Teachers who attend TESEP Plate Tectonics workshops and the TESEP presentation at CONASTA will receive free copies for their classroom. Contact the TESEP coordinator in your state or territory to find out when PD will be held in your area or to discuss arranging PD for your area. Schools that host TESEP PD can expect some extra resources and a free workshop registration for the liaising teacher.

 Ruth Dircks ASTA Scholarship to CONASTA

Each year up to three teachers are supported to attend CONASTA through this Scholarship. The teachers' travel, accommodation and registration costs for the conference are funded.
Visit the ASTA webpage to find out more and to download the application form.

 Expand your mind in Queensland

Expand your Mind is a program of the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) that combines a number of challenge based activities based around the discipline of engineering. The practical tasks are designed for Year 9 and 10 students to work in teams and calls on students to problem solve, plan, diagnose, analyse and construct. Each task is designed to encourage students to pursue further studies in maths and science in preparation for a university pathway in the field of engineering. Challenges are based around chemical processing, geology and environmental practices. All challenges have been designed in consultation with experts working in the field of engineering.
Contact the QMEA to find out more.

 It's all about M.E.(Mining and Energy)

It’s all about M.E (Minerals and Energy) is another program of the QMEA that aims to increase the participation of women in the mineral and energy workforce. Girls from year 10 participate in various hands on activities which provide students an understanding of the various roles that make up the minerals and energy sector. Students also hear from keynote speakers who relate their own career pathway story and highlight their achievements while working within the M.E. sector.
Contact the QMEA to find out more.

 Australian students and their teachers rocket to Alabama

Two Australian teachers and up to 4 of their students are receiving full scholarships to attend Space Camp, this July, in Huntsville, Alabama, USA! Congratulations to Penny George of Wanniassa P-10 School, ACT, and Silvia Choi of Arthur Phillip High School, NSW for winning this fantastic opportunity. The Australian Science Teachers Association is delighted to have been able to facilitate the identification of schools and teachers for this exciting opportunity and thanks Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) for making these fantastic opportunities available to Australian science educators and their students.
Read more here.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 Big Science Competition on-line.

The Big Science Competition is a one-hour international competition of 30 multiple-choice questions held at your school. Both on-line and pen and paper formats are available. The competition challenges students to think critically and solve scientific problems using everyday examples. The questions are aligned to the Australian Curriculum – Science. The competition can take place in your school on any day between 20 and 27 May inclusive. Students sitting a competition level must all do so on the same day. However, different competition levels may be sat on different days during the competition period. There are three competition levels based on the Australian school years: Junior (years 7 and 8); Intermediate (years 9 and 10) and Senior (years 11 and 12). Read more on the website:

 Olympiads on-line: A big boost to studying for Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam

As discussed above, ASI has launched an on-line facility that helps students study for the Australian Science Olympiad exams through interactive tutorials and links to other resources. This will prove especially useful for those students enrolled in the EESO exam, even more so for those who are not currently studying Earth and Environmental Science at school. Read more about the new online facility here: http://asoeonline.edu.au/ and start using it for free by logging on here: https://www.asi.edu.au/site/olympiads_online.php

 New materials for WA EES teachers

Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA) has produced sample programs and assessments for the new Australian Curriculum Earth and Environmental Science course rolling out across WA this year. Programs can be accessed at http://www.earthsciencewa.com.au/course/view.php?id=21, assessments are held within the teacher only (locked) section of the ESWA website. Please contact Jo (jo@earthsciencewa.com.au) to access these materials.

 Woodside Australian Science Project (WASP) buzzes into Year 6 with Geological Changes

The newest package for the Woodside Australian Science Project (WASP) is now available - Year 6 - Geological Changes. The materials from this package are freely available via the WASP website. While you are on the website don't forget to check out the packages for Years 7-12, the iPad app and YouTube animations.

Wait! there will soon be more - A new program is on the way to cater to Kindergarten to Year 5 Earth Science. The Primary Australian Literacy Mathematics and Science (PALMS) program is supported by ConocoPhillips and ESWA. The program, website and first package (for Year 1) will be launching in June/July so keep an eye out for www.palms.edu.au (once it is live). The first taste of the program will be showcased at CONASTA in July.

 Time to plan for National Science Week

National Science Week is coming in August. It might seem a long way off now but for planning purposes it is just around the corner! Visit the National Science Week website to find out how to plan and run an event and get maximum participation.
Here is one geoscience event already on the National Science Week calendar; a Public Forum - Powering Sydney into the Future: the Science of Alternative Energy

 Adelaide Geological trail online

South Australia has always been built in stone, given its historic lack of timber for construction. Walking along North Terrace reveals the rich diversity of South Australian building stone, and natural stone use generally, in numerous applications, historic and modern. The diverse types of rocks that have been used in construction over the past 150 years also provide the student of geology with a valuable teaching laboratory. To take advantage of this wonderful opportunity the South Australian government in collaboration with the South Australian Division of the Geological Society of Australia has produced a 10 page booklet highlighting 25 excellent examples of the use of rocks in the built environment.
Download the booklet here.

 Teaching hazards and disasters?

Major tsunami incidents in recent years have seen a major improvement in the resources available to educate students and the public about this significant hazard to coastal communities around the world. Check out Tsunami: the ultimate guide from Australian Emergency Management.

 Interested in Mars? Visit the next best thing.

The Mars Society Australia (MSA) utilises the outback splendor of Arkaroola and other extreme environments to get a feel for how life might be lived on Mars, even for robots. Their latest mission, Australian Robots Aid the Search for Life on Mars - via New Zealand, sees expeditioners - including well known Australian science teacher Ken Silburn - join with Spaceward Bound New Zealand (SBNZ), a project of the New Zealand Astrobiology Initiative (NZAI) in conjunction with University of Auckland, AUT and the Astrobiology Group of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, Mars Society New Zealand and the KiwiSpace Foundation. Spaceward Bound is a NASA initiated program that engages students and teachers in the great adventure of exploration seeking answers to some of the most fundamental questions: What is life?, How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? and What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?. You can join MSA and participate in the events, including future expeditions. Read more about MSA here.


Geoscience Education Views

Geoscience Education Views is prepared using opinion pieces provided by invited authors. Any views expressed in Geoscience Education Views are the opinions of the author and may not reflect the views or policies of the AGC or AGC Members.

4th annual AUGEN a success

Continued collaboration and growth of the Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network (AUGEN) has been marked by the success of the 4th annual meeting in Melbourne, Victoria, 12-13 January 2015.

The Australasian Universities Geoscience Educators Network (AUGEN) is an informal network for collaboration and communication between geoscience academics across Australia and New Zealand with an emphasis on sharing innovative ideas for and research into tertiary level geoscience teaching. In addition to retaining a membership representative of all tertiary geoscience faculties within Australia, AUGEN is recognised and directly supported by major professional geoscience bodies including the Australian Geoscience Council, the Geological Society of Australia, the AusIMM Geoscience Society, the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, and the Minerals Tertiary Education Council. AUGEN's primary directives are to promote and support sharing and development of curriculum, field, classroom and digital teaching strategies, and assessment methods and materials, through research-based best practices.

The recent AUGEN meeting, jointly hosted by the University of Melbourne and Monash University, attracted 40 participants from all states of Australia and New Zealand, representing both the university and allied sectors. The full program of talks included two invited keynote speakers who focussed on communication and learning and teaching in the digital age, and a remote presentation from renowned geoscience education researcher Assoc. Professor Eric Riggs of Texas A&M University. Other highlights of the technical program included a demonstration of the Macquarie University based Virtual Petrographic Microscope by Nathan Daczko, and the debut of an 'edutaining' mineralogy card game, Mineral Supertrumps, developed by Carl Spandler at James Cook University. Pat James of the University of South Australia employed a spectacular array of food and household items in an engaging, hands-on, audience-participation based workshop to demonstrate one example of how to 'flip' a classroom without relying on technology.

The value of AUGEN to facilitate fruitful formal partnerships has been realised through the successful national Office for Learning and Teaching grant awarded to Dr. Michael Roach (University of Tasmania) and his collaborators within the network. The award, which was announced three weeks before the meeting, supports an innovative project to explore immersive visualisation in the Earth Sciences. The project aims to develop an open-access digital atlas of Australia using photogrammetric methods that will allow users to virtually visit and explore key geologic sites across the country.

AUGEN is still in its organisational infancy, but the enthusiastic participation and continued call for annual meetings testifies to the role it plays for members and the broader geoscience community. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for the end of January 2016 in Canberra. Future membership and meetings can continue to be without charge with continued support from our sponsors. For more information and access to past abstract volumes, please visit our website at augen.edu.au or email augenmail@gmail.com to become a member.

Dr. Leslie D. Almberg
for the AUGEN organising committee


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 Big Science Competition registrations (pen and paper) due, 29 April 2015
The competition challenges students to think critically and solve scientific problems using everyday examples. The questions are aligned to the Australian Curriculum – Science. See the ASI website for registration details.

 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize, National competition, On-line entries close 1 May 2015
See website for more details
Primary School prize: http://tinyurl.com/mtda2ao.
Secondary School prize: http://tinyurl.com/kkcwaf9.

 Big Science Competition registrations (on-line) due, 13 May 2015
The competition challenges students to think critically and solve scientific problems using everyday examples. The questions are aligned to the Australian Curriculum – Science. See the ASI website for registration details.

 Australian Science Olympiad Exam registrations due, 22 July 2015
The entrance exam for the 2016 Earth and Environmental Science summer school, open to all 2015 Year 10 and 11 students, will be held on 7 August 2015. See the ASI website for registration details.

 Top GeoShot photographic competition. Entries close 1 September 2015


 SASTA Annual Conference & Exhibition, Adelaide, 13-14 April 2015
See website for more details

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 24 April 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD1: Round and Round with Rocks, Canberra, 11 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD2: Riding the Climate Roller Coaster, Canberra, 12 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD8: Powerful stuff - the uranium debate, Sydney, 15 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD2: Riding the Climate Roller Coaster, Sydney, 16 May 2015
See website for more details

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 22 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD7: Our Place in Space, Melbourne, 28 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD9: Plate Tectonics, Sydney, 29 May 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD1: Round and Round with Rocks, Sydney, 30 May 2015
See website for more details

 Big Science Competition, in-school pen and paper and on-line, 20-27 May 2015
See website for more details

 Labtech Conference 2015, Melbourne, 12 June 2015
See website for more details

 TESEP PD9: Plate Tectonics, Canberra, 16 June 2015
See website for more details

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 19 June 2015
See website for more details

 CONASTA 64, Perth, 5 - 9 July 2015
CONASTA 64 logo
The STAWA Primary Science Conference and CONSTAWA will not be held as
separate conferences but will subsumed within the CONASTA program.
Find details here.

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 24 July 2015
See website for more details

 Inaugural STEM teachers' conference, University of Wollongong, 25 July 2015
See website for more details

 Australian Science Olympiad Exams, August 2015
   •   Chemistry exam August 5
   •   Earth and Environmental Science exam August 7
   •   Biology exam August 10
   •   Physics exam August 12
See website for more details:

 National Science Week, Nation-wide, 15-23 August 2015
See website for more details

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 21 August 2015
See website for more details

 The 2015 SEA*ACT Science Fair!, Maribyrnong Primary School ACT, 28-29 August
Read more here.

 International Earth Science Olympiad 2015, Brazil, 13-20 September
Explore details here and consider sitting the exams to attend summer school and maybe represent Australia at IESO 2016 in Japan!

 Mt Stromlo Astronomy night, Canberra, 25 September 2015
See website for more details

 STAVCON, Melbourne, 27 November 2015
See website for more details

 STAQ Senior Science Conference, Brisbane, 27 November 2015
See website for more details

 GeoEdLink will list your event here!
If you have an upcoming Earth and Environmental Science education related event GeoEdLink will list its details here. Send your event details to the GeoEdLink editor. An event name, date, location and web site link are essential. The next GeoEdLink will be published in December 2014.


GeoEdLink is a newsletter published by the Australian Geoscience Council.

AGC logo

The AGC is the peak body representing:

AIG logo AUSIMM logo GSA logo

ASEG logo AAG logo PESA logo

IAH logo AGIA logo


GeoEdLink can only continue if its subscriber base grows, enabling the AGC to assist more teachers and allied professionals learn and understand more about the geosciences and teach them more effectively. The more subscribers, the more effective the newsletter can be.

Please do not reply to this email. If you wish to contact the Australian Geoscience Council please do so via links at Australian Geoscience Council

GeoEdLink is managed for the AGC by Geoscience Education and Outreach Services .

Contact | Privacy | Archive
Copyright © 2007-2015 Australian Geoscience Council