July 2016      
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A message from the AGC Chair

For this edition of GeoEdLink, I am standing in for Bill Shaw, AGC President, to make the introductory comments. Bill is taking a very well deserved break, driving around the USA with his wife, and no doubt getting a fair bit of roadside geology in at the same time.

Bill Shaw

Jon Hronsky, AGC Chair

A major focus for the AGC during the last quarter has been the initial stages of planning for a proposed major combined geoscience societies conference, to be held in 2018. The goal of this conference, which currently goes under the banner AGCC2018, with the by-line "Big Ideas in Geoscience", is to focus the entire Australian geoscience community on major issues of societal relevance. Although it is very early days, and the program is yet to be developed, there will be a very strong interdisciplinary theme to the conference, as I think we all know that the big problems in geoscience need an integrated team approach from multiple disciplines. We also know that the big ideas, which this conference seeks to promote and fertilise, often come from the interactions at the boundaries of different disciplines.

One major challenge in Australian geoscience is the UNCOVER initiative, which seeks to deliver the new research and data sets we need to successfully find the next generation of major mineral deposits hidden beneath Australia's cover sequences. During the quarter, in a very positive development for geoscience, a major $100 Million funding boost was announced for Geoscience Australia, our premier federal geoscience agency. A major focus of this funding will be to collect the data that will underpin the UNCOVER initiative and this result is very good news for our geoscience community (although dependent on final post-election sign off).

I have recently returned from the Australian Earth Science Convention (AESC) in Adelaide, which is the flagship conference of the Geological Society of Australia, one of the member societies of the AGC. The conference was very successful and reasonably well attended, given that the mining and exploration industry is still somewhat in a downturn. Much excellent new Australian geoscience was presented and it is clear that great scientific progress is being made in many different fields. The personal highlight for me was a plenary key-note by Professor Paul Hoffman on the subject of the Ice-House Earth, that period in the late Neoproterozoic where the entire earth is thought to have frozen over. Paul described the Ice-House Earth with such depth and richness, reflecting recent advances in the science, that it felt very real, almost like he was actually reporting on some alien planet we had just discovered. Topics such as the Ice-House Earth really drive home the excitement and significance of geology as a science. And of course, the rocks that first led to this idea were first discovered in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. While we perhaps cannot all be Paul Hoffman, I feel inspired by the passion with which he communicates geoscience and that same passion is certainly something we can all aspire to.

Jon Hronsky
Chair, Australian Geoscience Council


The incoming federal government is yet to fully articulate the policy directions it will take into this next term. In its previous iteration, numerous education-related policy and budgetary measures that it announced failed to advance to legislation or through parliament for a variety of reasons. This has created uncertainty within the school and university sectors and this needs to end. Now that the government has been returned it is vital for the future of the nation that the policies the government intends to advance with respect to schools funding, university and research funding be fully spelt out and debated in a bipartisan manner that will achieve the best outcome and the greatest certainty for the sector. Hopefully, recognition of the value of education and innovation spoken about prior to the election will carry forward but at this stage only time will tell. However, we will need to watch this space carefully as it is not at all clear whether some of the unpopular measures announced in the previous term are still on the table or not.

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


Geoscience Education News & Reviews

 National Science week at school: Drones, droids and robots. Get amongst the action!

National Science Week, 13–21 August 2016, will see schools embrace the T in STEM, in particular autonomous technology, with the National Science Week school theme Drones, droids and robots. Find the events list here. The theme will centre on the real-world application of autonomous technologies in areas including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, medicine and space and deep ocean exploration. Plenty of scope there to work lots of Earth Science into the classroom!

The Australian Science Teachers Association has produced the 'Drones, Droids and Robots' resource book. It has 92 pages of information on drones, droids and robots, including history, science fact vs science fiction, research from some Australian universities, plenty of activities and links to videos, interactives and latest developments in the industry and how you can get involved. You will find something to inspire both you and your students. Download it here for free.

 Geoscience Australia open day celebrates science week, August 21
GASW banner

Learn about the exciting and important work carried out by Australia's national geoscience agency and how this impacts your everyday life. Enjoy all sorts of stunning visual displays, listen to great talks and see an amazing building and the fantastic resources it holds.

To find out more visit the Geoscience Australia website: http://tinyurl.com/p62hapc.


WANTED: Schools to host SCINEMA during Science Week

Scinema are currently looking for schools to host FREE programs during National Science Week, 13-21 August 2016. All you need to is choose your preferred program from the Scinema primary or secondary school play lists, register your venue and Scinema will be in touch. All your school needs is a screen, computer and internet connection and they will do the rest!

To find out more visit the Scinema website: http://tinyurl.com/hvxp7w3.

 Tour the Joides Resolution virtually!

Starting August 13 as part of National Science Week you can visit the JOIDES Resolution, virtually, as the crew seeks to better understand the seismic forces that created the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean region in 2004. The program will focus on this exploration, the nature and process of science, and careers.

Book your tour for times between August 13 and October 6 here: http://tinyurl.com/hxo7xy2.

 2016 International Earth Science Olympiad team announced

IESO team 2016

        The 2016 International Earth Science Olympiad Australian team, left to right:
        Jeffrey Brown Year 12 Redlands School NSW
        Daniel Ho Year 12 James Ruse Agricultural High School NSW
        Catriona Illingworth Year 12 Abbotsleigh NSW
        Winnie Yuan Year 10 Abbotsleigh NSW

The 2016 Australian Earth and Environment Science Olympiad Summer School brought together 21 of the most talented students in Australia to experience 2 weeks of intense Earth Science tuition, field trips and fun. At the end of the residential program held at the Australian National University, assessments determined that four students stood out amongst what was already an outstanding group.

This year fours students, all from Sydney, will represent Australia at the 10th International Earth Science Olympiad in Japan. Congratulations go to Jeffrey Brown, Daniel Ho, Catriona Illingworth and Winnie Yuan. Meet the team here. The team departs for Japan August 16 and the event begins August 20. The AGC wishes them all the best.

The entry exam for the 2017 Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad Summer School will be held August 5, 2016. Registrations closed July 22, 2016 but now is the time to get your talented Year 9 and 10 students thinking about the 2017 entry exam for the 2018 summer school and a chance to represent Australia at the International Earth Science Olympiad in 2018. Students must register for the Australian Science Olympiad Exam through their school. Students who would like to take part should talk with their science teacher.

 SEA*ACT Science and Engineering Fair

This fair aims to:

  •   encourage active involvement and interest by students in science.
  •  encourage students to pursue their interests in science beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
  •  encourage students to undertake planned and controlled investigations in science and report their results in an appropriate manner.
  •  encourage students to apply these processes to scientific enquiry to topics that interest them.
  •  encourage students to record and present their work for others and in so doing, develop the various skills used in scientific communication.
  •  enable the community, including other students and teachers, to see project work done by students in the ACT colleges, school and preschools

SEA*ACT Science Fair entries are also entries to the BHP Billiton Science & Engineering Awards and all of the winning entries will be forwarded to compete in the finals judging for the national BHP Billiton Science & Engineering Awards. There is no extra charge for this.

Themes and Curriculum Links - Each entry should fall under one of the following themes:

  •  Earth and Space Science
  •  Physical Science
  •  Biological Science
  •  Chemical Science
  •  Engineering

Age Groups

  •  Early Childhood. Preschool to year 2
  •  Primary Years 3 to 6
  •  Special Education - All age groups
  •  Secondary/Post Compulsory Years 7 to 12

Find out more here: http://tinyurl.com/ztqroj4.

 Out and about with ESWA
Teachers in the field at Kalgoorlie
Teachers in the field at Kalgoorlie.
Image courtesy of ESWA

Earth Science Western Australia have been busy recently, here are some of the highlights:

  •  Teachers enjoyed getting out into the field for professional learning in the Kalgoorlie region.
  •  ESWA held workshops at the Student Forum for the International Liquified Natural Gas 18 Conference (hosted by Perth).
  •  Students and ESWA attended the 5th annual Get Into Resources event
     where 350 students were able to interact with professionals and trades people over three inspiring days.

To find out more about ESWA upcoming activities and resources visit: http://www.earthsciencewa.com.au/

 TESEP hits the rocks no matter what the weather
Teachers in the field at the Otways
Teachers in the field on a very cold day
on the Otway coast, Victoria.
Image courtesy of Emily Rochette

The Teacher Earth Science Education Programme took to the field and the classroom in first semester, here are some of the highlights:

  •  Teachers enjoyed getting out into the field for professional learning in the Canberra region.
  •  Teachers spent time at the Australian Museum, Sydney, looking at Climate Change and Plate Tectonics.
  •  Labtechs got the good oil on Plate Tectonics and a taste of TESEP's 3D visualisation materials at LABTECH Victoria.
  •  Monash University hosted Plate Tectonics and Rocks TESEP workshops and showcased their splendid Rock Garden teaching resource
  •  Teachers endured the bitterly cold July field trip to the Otway region and discovered lots about rocks and found some neat fossils.

To find out more about TESEP activities and professional development workshops visit: http://www.tesep.org.au/

 Ready, STEM X, apply!

The future of STEM X looks bright and applications for the limited number of places in the 2017 STEM X academy open 1 August 2016. Make sure you get your application in for this fabulous opportunity. Read more about the STEM X 5-day residential experience by downloading the STEM X booklet here.

 Feedback wanted from all Stage 6 NSW Science Teachers

The Science Teachers Association of NSW (STANSW) is seeking feedback on the new Science Syllabuses from all Stage 6 NSW science teachers.

STANSW will collect feedback from members and develop and submit a written response on behalf of all STANSW members. This is in addition to any feedback provided to the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW directly by teachers.

STANSW members are invited to complete the Google forms found here that are relevant, including Earth and Environmental Science. All responses will be anonymous and each survey will give participants the chance to identify up to two things they like about the new syllabuses, two things they dislike, and some suggestions for improvement.

The deadline for completing these STANSW surveys is Wednesday 17th August 2016.

 SSAI National Primary & Secondary Schools Poster Competition!

The Statistical Society of Australia Inc is again supporting this project-based learning activity. It involves teams of 2 to 5 school students creating an informative poster presentation based on the collection and interpretation of data towards addressing a practical research question. Participants and interested schools should register and consider the rules, sample projects, additional tips and judging criteria. Results of previous competitions are impressive!

Read more about the competition here. It is time some more Earth Science posters joined the winners!

Registrations close September 1 and posters must be submitted before November 20, 2016.

 Discover Volcanism - Hawaii field trip: 11-19 February 2017.
Teachers in the field at Kalgoorlie
Up close and personal with ropy lava

See amazing volcanism first-hand and explore the active volcanoes of Hawaii for a week with a group of like-minded geoscience enthusiasts. The eight day Discover Volcanism trip is based in Hilo, Hawaii and takes the group though the basics of Plate Tectonics, hot-spot volcanism, volcano life cycles, volcanic products and more. Collect data, samples and learn how to develop scientific field notes and map in the field and in a lava cave. Participants also visit an active volcano observatory, a tea farm and winery, historical parks and learn about local traditions and culture that has developed through living with the hazards of volcanic activity. Also examine examples of engineering solutions to some unusual hazard problems in Hawaii. There is even time to walk on a black and green sand beach, swim in volcanically heated hot pools and snorkel on a coral reef with turtles and dolphins (if they appear).

The trip caters for a small number of people so that personalised learning experiences can happen for all the participants. The trip is also not overly expensive, with all the land transport, accommodation, breakfasts, some dinners, park entry fees covered. All you need to do is get to and from Hilo, Hawaii and make your field lunches and you're almost set.

Cost: US$1585 per person (not including airfares to/from Hilo, HI Twin share)
Members of the Geological Society of Australia receive a US$75 discount

For more information you can visit http://geoetc.com/hawaiifeb17/ or email Gary Lewis on gary@geoetc.com for more details.

On-line resources - links and reviews:

 The Primary Australian Literacy Mathematics & Science (PALMS) Program extended to Year 3

This PALMS STEM program provides great hands on activities and then complements it with activities in other Sciences, Mathematics, English etc. In June PALMS added the Year 3 package taking this program from Year 1-3. Eventually it will cover Kindergarten to Year 5. Resources can be accessed freely here: http://www.palms.edu.au/

 The Woodside Australian Science Project (WASP) adds Year 4 to its offerings

The latest material from WASP for Year 4 includes a new Earth Science package and an animation on El Nino and La Nina (and how it impacts Australia). This excellent site now provides packages for Years 4-10 and they are freely available here: http://www.wasp.edu.au/. All the animations are available on the YouTube channel too: http://tinyurl.com/zzd558g.

 Olympiads on-line: Making studying for Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam easier

For students enrolled in the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam and especially for those not studying Earth and Environmental Science at school this online facility is a must: http://asoeonline.edu.au/. New material has expanded the questions available making it the ideal study tool for anybody planning to sit any of the Australian Olympiad exams in 2016 or 2017 and its free.

 Mobile device apps making inroads into education

Apps are just programs for the mobile world but they are making a world of difference to student engagement. Here are just a few free or inexpensive ones that have caught our attention in recent times:

Exoplanet explorerlite: see what other solar systems look like using real data. Compare with our solar system and find planets in the habitable zone and more!

FieldMoveClino: an excellent clinometer and compass for smart phones. Takes dips and strikes and allows you to save and compile your data, observations and more on the move and export it as a spreadsheet when you're done.

Quizlet: turns mobile phones into feedback and engagement devices. Great for finding hooks into the subject matter when other things fail.

Spacecraft 3D: print a paper image you can download from NASA and then view it through your device camera: Bam! The image turns into a 3D resource that has to be seen to be believed. Many other great apps on this NASA site too.

Stellarium: a great planetarium program free for computers but costing a few dollars for a smart phone version.

There are just as many apps as there are mobile phones (maybe an exaggeration) and everyone has their favourites. If you find one that is especially good in the classroom please bring it to the attention of the GeoEdLink editor. Multi-platform apps are preferred because they serve the greatest diversity of mobile device users but if you come across a good one for just one platform (ie: Android, Apple etc) let us know anyway!

... and while we are about it...
Here is an interesting article about Pokémon Go and a school in western Australia:


Geoscience Education Views

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

Olympiad students share their thoughts on the Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad program

Tim and SachaTim and Sacha showing off their Silver Medals in Brazil.
Images courtesy of
Greg McNamara
Tim Hume, Silver medallist at the 9th International Earth Science Olympiad, Brazil 2015.

The Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad exam is the ultimate test of critical thinking and scientific skills, drawing ideas from biology, chemistry and physics into a single exam. Preparing for the entrance exam was an engaging and challenging exercise which refined my problem solving skills and also enhanced my performance in the VCE sciences.

For the students selected to participate in the Australian Earth and Environmental Science Summer School, it is a transformative experience in which students from across the country come together to engage with each other in an intensive academic environment. The highlights of my summer school experience were the friendships developed and the opportunity to explore the field, broadening my scientific horizons. It was also a critical factor in deciding to study science at the Australian National University, where I am now undertaking the Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB) in Science.

In September of 2015 I travelled to Poços de Caldas, Brazil, to compete for Australia in the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO). This incredible experience in Poços de Caldas, Brazil, allowed me to meet other passionate science students from around the world. It was a truly global cultural experience concentrated in a single location – a meeting point for aspiring scientists and leading educators worldwide. I especially valued the opportunity to work in international teams during the International Team Field Investigation; I learned how to engage my leadership, teamwork and communication skills in a significantly different context, attempting to overcome language difficulties to ensure that the knowledge and skills of every team member were employed.

The Olympiads will present unique opportunities for science students to learn, collaborate and ultimately succeed in their studies. "If you are studying science, it will challenge you. If you are passionate about science, it will inspire you. If you are interested, sign up today!"

Sacha Mann, Silver medallist at the 9th International Earth Science Olympiad, Brazil 2015.

The opportunities garnered from the Olympiad experience have broadened my academic, social and global viewpoints significantly in the year and a half since I commenced the Olympiad journey. If not for the encouragement of my dedicated science teacher, urging my peers and I to take the first leap by sitting the Australian Science Olympiads Summer School entrance exam, I would not have experienced the fabulous and integrally important interdisciplinary meld of biology, chemistry and physics that is Earth and Environmental science; I would never have met some of the most inspiring and passionate educators in Australia; I would be lacking several lifelong friends made at all stages of the Olympiad process and I would not be currently studying the degree of my dreams. The ASO process is truly transformational at every stage of the process.

Selection for the Australian Science Olympiad Summer Schools, is based upon an entry exam which tests student's critical thinking and logic skills, as well as their knowledge of the discipline; either biology, chemistry, physics, or earth and environmental science. This experience in itself is highly valuable, as it introduces students to higher level thinking processes and prompts reflection on their own learning. Selection for the International Olympiad team entails a two-week intensive residential program at the Australian National University, where the content of an entire first year university course is taught. The highlight of my summer school experience however was the friendships I made, and the decision to study the Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) (PhB) which my exposure to the ANU and the fabulous, diverse and intelligent people within it led to.

I was selected to attend the IESO in September of last year, held in Poços de Caldas, Brazil. Needless to say, this experience was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done, and has resulted in friendships and memories which will endure long into the future.

I thoroughly recommend the Australian Science Olympiad process to anyone who will listen, for any student who has a passion for science, it will inspire, encourage and nurture, pushing you to succeed to your highest potential.

Hear what Olympiad students have to say here.

Read what a teacher thinks here.

The Australian Geoscience Council supports the Olympiad program. To find out more about the program visit the ASI web page.


Geoscience Education Deadlines, Events & Activities


 FlipCon 2016, Gold Coast (October) and Adelaide (November)
Early bird registrations close July 31, 2016.

 The Tasmanian Science Talent Search
Registrations close 14 August 2016

 Stage 6 NSW Science Teacher new syllabus feedback for STANSW
Submissions close 17 August 2016

 Geoscience Australia open day, Canberra, 21 August
10am to 3pm.

 GTAV 2016 Annual Conference, Melbourne, 21-23 August
Registrations close August 17, 2016.

 SEA*ACT Science Fair, Canberra, 29 August - 1 September
Entries due August 26-27, 2016.

 STAWA Future Science Conference, Perth, 2 December
Call for presentations closes September 15, 2016 http://tinyurl.com/gwzmlhf.


 Science 101 - Introduction to Earth Science, Canberra, 3 August
The first in a Science 101 seminar series at Geoscience Australia

 Australian Science Olympiad Exams, August 2016
Registrations closed July 22
   •   Chemistry exam August 3
   •   Earth and Environmental Science exam August 5
   •   Biology exam August 8
   •   Physics exam August 10
See website for more details:

 Year 7 Science Series: Physical Sciences, Adelaide, 19 August
This workshop will support teachers to further develop their current understanding of the Science Understanding Strand: Physical Sciences.

 International Earth Science Olympiad 2016, Japan, 20-27 August
Explore the details here and encourage students to sit the 2017 exam to attend the 2018 summer school and maybe represent Australia at IESO 2018.

 GTAV 2016 Annual Conference, Melbourne, 21-23 August
The largest Geography Education event in Australia.

 SEA*ACT Science Fair, Canberra, 29 August - 1 September
31 August, Science Fair Project Viewing.

 Investigating Earth and Space Sciences: Years 8 to 10, Adelaide, 9 September
Expand your subject knowledge and gather new ideas about how to teach some of the more difficult concepts in this Sub-Strand.

 FlipCon 2016, Gold Coast, 13-15 October

 FlipCon 2016, Adelaide, 17-19 November

 STAVCON 2016, Melbourne, 25 November

 STAWA Future Science Conference, Perth, 2 December

 CONSEA*ACT 2017, Canberra, 25 March 2017

 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 March 2015.


GeoEdLink is a newsletter published by the Australian Geoscience Council.

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