Previously I've written about my passions for mentoring and encouraging young people to follow their dreams and to make the most of their God-given talents, in whatever field of endeavour. My article in July this year on the Science Olympiads spell this out in that it applies to all endeavours. (au.christiantoday.com)
Mentoring applies in every field, part of my succession plan involves mentoring of young writers for the online Christian press (Christian Today); and likewise Country Town Tours, where well-known athletes and coaches as role models to rural and regional youth. I'm constantly reminded of such encouraging texts as Matthew 25 verses 14-30; Luke 19 verses 12-28; most pertinently, Matthew 5 verse 16 "... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Some members of my own extended family have succeeded in careers involving science and maths, and in this article, the reader will find references to a few of the Australian activities aimed at encouraging young people to continue their burgeoning interest in science.
Professor Harry Messel International Science School
The 50th anniversary of the Professor Harry Messel International Science School (ISS) at the University of Sydney was celebrated recently. Professor Messel AC CBE, is now 90 years old. He recalled arriving in Australia from the USA in the mid 1950s, and noting that young Australians revered their sporting heroes but not their gifted scientists.
He set up a Foundation to enable high school students who excelled at science to meet each other for two weeks each summer, and he also invited famous scientists from all over the world to come to talk to them. He hoped this would boost their self-esteem, encourage them into science careers and benefit our society in general. He also brought the American tradition of philanthropy to the Australian science community.
One proof of his concept is this half-century celebration; and another is that many former participants have become leaders in society. Two of the guest speakers were ISS scholars in the mid 60s: Australia's Chief Justice Robert French AC (who has both has physics and law degrees) and Emeritus Professor Greg McRae of Massechusetts Institute of Technology, USA (an academic, a businessman and a jazz musician and documentary film-maker in his spare time; who also pledged financial support for the ISS).
These eminent citizens, as well as the MC for the evening - the ABC radio and TV science personality Adam Spencer, who has a PhD in maths from the University of Sydney – indicate that science geeks also have wide-ranging 'other' skills. The current ISS students continue to show this broad spread of talents by finishing by writing and performing a 'Review' at the end of their fortnight's summer school of science. (www.physics.usyd.edu.au)
National Youth Science Forum
Sponsored by more than 25 companies and universities, and with a long-term involvement by Rotary International, this Forum provides residential summer schools in both Canberra and Perth for year 11 students. It is the only summer school to show students a wide range of career opportunities for science-related disciplines. (www.nysf.edu.au/)
Australian and International Science Olympiad training programs
The International Science Olympiad teams compete overseas each year and there are also opportunities for all high school students to participate in the Big Science competition right from year 7. For students in years 10 and 11, the selection for the International teams begins with selection exams for the Australian Science Olympiads (biology, chemistry and physics), from which seventy year 10 and 11 students are selected for a residential summer training program . https://www.asi.edu.au/site/
The International Maths Olympiad has similar selection processes: www.amt.edu.au
In this way, even students who do not make the cut for the elite international teams can benefit from meeting other young people with similar interests, and extending their love for science. This has a knock-on effect in that, when these students return to their schools, they can mentor and encourage teachers and other students to attain a higher level of achievement in the normal high school exams.
The Science Experience comes to you
Each year, dedicated volunteer teachers and University academics and scientists and engineers from industry give up 3-4 days to bring hands-on workshops and interesting talks to University venues around the country for year 9-10 students.
These are sponsored by The Australian Teacher's Association, Rotary International, the participating Universities, and various industries. For details about a program that will be coming near you, see: http://www.scienceexperience.com.au/about-the-program
Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools
Some scientists in all areas of science, maths and engineering are partnered with primary schools and high schools throughout the nation. Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools is a Federally funded initiative, administered by CSIRO Education. Any school can register, and if there is a suitable registered scientist willing to be a partner, they can work out their own individual program to suit the scientist's available time and the individual needs of the school. (www.scientistsinschools.edu.au/)
This program has received funding to continue until at least 2016, and it aims to increase involvement with isolated schools, including those with high proportion of Aboriginal children, using a range of online communications.
In addition, CSIRO Education has a website (CREST) to support teachers in helping students undertake projects at all levels. (www.csiro.au/crest)
The recent Nobel laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt is a Scientist in his local school. He also financially supports the Australian Academy of Science website, 'Primary Investigations', that provides curriculum materials and interesting activities for primary school teachers to use. http://science.org.au/pi/
National Indiginous Science Education Program at Macquarie University
Science academic staff at Macquarie University, led by Assoc Professor Joanne Jamie, started the Indigenous Science Education program in 2005 in order to redress the problems they had seen in the course of their research into natural products from Australian plants, concerning the lack of involvement of Aboriginal youth in secondary education in general, and science education in particular.
This program has now gone from strength to strength, has now become a National program, and has won many awards for its successful mentoring of Aboriginal students in isolated communities. Some of the identified positive outcomes are described in their brochure, available online at: mq.edu.au
Your local University
Your local university at a more informal and less competitive way, will have some type of open day, or workshop session for high school students, or information days for teachers. He encourages you to contact your nearest University to see what science activities they have to offer you and your young friends, if they are at all interested.
The number of top scientists who are followers of Jesus is phenomenal and you might meet one when engaging in any of these. Enjoy your summer break in science.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html