Hands-on technology helped turned a South Australian schoolgirl into a science educator. Now Sarah Edwards teaches science and maths to years 8 to 12 at Naracoorte High School, and is hoping she’ll see her students experience the same inspiration.
Ms Edwards’ teenage imagination was fired by a science kit provided by STELR – Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance.
Today, she’s using the same renewable energy kit in the classroom – making her probably the first person in Australia to make the transition from STELR student to STELR teacher.
“I used the same kit when I was studying years 9 and 10 at Renmark High School,” she said. “I vividly remember the cardboard boxes and fans and blades – it sparked my curiosity.
“I always wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t know what subject. Using the STELR kit at high school gave me that drive to take up a science teaching position.
“I really liked how it was hands-on and practical. Around that time there was a huge push around sustainable energy and I was hearing how they were building wind turbines in Snowtown.
“And there I was in the classroom, making turbines. I could see how the technology applied to our lives. I was so engaged.”
Her road to science teaching had its bumps. “I was inspired to become a teacher by my year 4 teacher at Victor Harbor Primary School.”
But just as that ambition was crystallising in her senior years, she hit the kind of barrier girls doing STEM subjects often face.
“In my senior year I did chemistry but dropped physics because I was the only girl in the class. Most girls did health science.”
Thankfully for Ms Edwards and her students, she persevered, gaining a double degree at Flinders University in science and education.
What advice would she give a teenage Sarah now?
“Too often at that age I had opportunities and chickened out,” she said.
“So my advice is, take any and every opportunity that’s given to you – take it with both hands and run with it.
“When it comes to STEM, don’t be afraid to try something new.”
STELR is a national initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).
Peter Pentland, the Executive Manager of ATSE’s Schools Program, said the program was continuing to expand, with 682 schools involved across Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, India, the Philippines and New Zealand.
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