Robyn Bull (fourth from left) with teachers at the One Day Introduction to PrimaryConnections workshop in Newman, April 4 2016

PrimaryConnections in Newman, WA

Published 30 April 2016

Newman, a mining town in regional Western Australia, has a population of just over 4000 people and is the largest town in the Eastern Pilbara. This region has been termed as one of the most isolated and inhospitable regions in Australia, however the community spirit of this desert town was noticeably evident as soon as our presenter Robyn Bull (a Queensland based teacher and manager of a state-wide science education program) landed.

On the 4th of April, Primary Connections hosted a Government Funded Professional Development Science Workshop at South Newman Primary School. A total of thirteen teachers from the six schools in the region (including Paraburdoo Primary School and Jigalong Remote Community School) attended the workshop. “The enthusiasm for Primary Connections and science was evident from the get go,” Robyn stated, with some of these teachers travelling over 700km to attend on what was a scorching 42c autumn day. Including an abundance of flies and heat, isolation and low literacy levels in students are some of the challenges that these highly committed teachers often face.

The inflated travel costs, even just to get to Perth, exacerbate their isolation. None of these dedicated teachers had ever received any professional learning opportunities in science, with all of the limited professional development events in the region being strictly focused on literacy and maths: “they do not get much science PD, so they loved the science and really got the PC connection: linking science and literacy.” The lack of science PDs in the region was clearly reflected with most of the teachers at the workshop expressing a below 50% confidence level in teaching inquiry science, and some expressing no confidence at all.

This agnosticism however was removed by the end of the workshop. Sue Grigson from North Tom Price Primary School described the workshop as, “a fast paced informative and interactive session. I now feel better about teaching science.” Craig Richards from Paraburdoo Primary School stated that, “teachers are afraid to teach science. I would recommend both the PrimaryConnections workshop and resources to any teacher interested in providing deep, collaborative learning in science. It is the best resource available.”

PrimaryConnections on behalf of the Australian Academy of Science would like to thank South Newman Primary School for allowing us to host this workshop at their school, and all the dedicated teachers who attended. We hope that the workshop will help raise the profile of science in schools and improves the confidence to effectively teach inquiry science.