Outside BMW World's iconic towers

Educational tour takes students “to the forefront of science”

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Outside BMW World's iconic towers

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Latitude Group Travel is a curator of educational experiences, and in 2016, Rosebank College took 50 students on a Latitude STEM tour with a difference.

If Sir Ken Robinson was correct when he said, “we are living in revolutionary times, and that is why we need a revolution in education” – and he usually is… then the revolution must include engaging and relevant experiences. Rosebank College’s science coordinator, Jason Smith, says the most inspirational learning activities often occur “beyond the four walls of the classroom”.

“Our STEM tour to Europe with Latitude Group Travel inspired and engaged students to appreciate that science is more than text books and classroom experiences;’ he said.

Mr Smith says STEM education is now focussed less on the regurgitation of facts and more on the process of working scientifically: “In the NSW syllabus in particular, it’s about a series of steps in the scientific process. It is a way of thinking”.

Mr Smith says the resulting Latitude Group Travel tour was custom­ designed to map onto the progression of scientific thinking of the last 300 years. “We looked at early ideas of science around the 1700s in London, right through to the forefront of science. Logical thought process hasn’t changed, but the idea of seeing it over 300 years is quite exciting;’ he said.

Latitude CEO, Jenny Murphy, said, “most educational tours seem to be loosely linked to a subject title, but we feel it’s important to actively use the specific school curriculum to research and identify existing curriculum-linked activities, and for designing our own hands-on, experiential learning activities to be included in the tour itinerary’

She said, “the Rosebank STEM tour included nearly twenty STEM curriculum-linked activities, including a wide range of STEM-focussed guided tours in some amazing and unexpected locations, plus genuinely engaging, hands-on, experiential learning through workshops, experiments, simulations, Q&As and more”.

She says educational tours should be inspired both by a ‘learning-by­ doing’ mentality, and a desire to engage students. “You can jam­ pack your tour with educational experiences, but it’s important not to overdo it. We find having a dedicated, knowledgeable tour director means the schedule runs like clockwork:’

“As a school teacher, it’s a scary thought taking 50 kids to Europe, but everything they did reduced my stress levels;’ Mr Smith added.

From a pedagogical perspective, Ms Murphy says educational tours should have educational outcomes: “We strongly believe experiential learning delivers these:’ Mr Smith says the scope of the activities went “way beyond a standard educational tour’:

A highlight for Mr Smith was the large Hadron Collider in Geneva. “There aren’t many Australian students who can say they have talked to an actual scientist at the Hadron Collider about the work they are doing there. This is at the forefront of science;’ Mr Smith enthused. “It’s all happening here!” Students attended a presentation by a practising scientist, – with a Q&A session, followed by a guided tour of the facility. He says students returned able to conceptualise potential career paths at the cutting edge of science.

Another stand-out for Mr Smith was their visit to the BMW assembly plant in Munich. “Australian kids in Munich seeing BMWs being manufactured; it’s unheard of! BMW is at the forefront of technology in manufacturing, with an entirely robotic system, programmed by humans:’

He says the connection with what the kids were learning in class wasn’t immediately obvious, yet, during a presentation about the required attributes and skills for employment at the high-tech plant, students began to see the connection to science, and maths and engineering, and where it can lead. He says this is part of Latitude’s approach, to expose students to what’s possible for them in the future: “They started projecting themselves into various career paths:’

Did it result in lasting STEM engagement for students? Mr Smith says 100 percent of the year nines and tens who joined the tour have pursued a senior science subject “It’s sparked their imagination enough to pursue science in senior years, and a lot of them have picked out [STEM-related] university courses because they saw something on that trip that allowed them to project themselves into a career path:’

He says the tour was of such high quality, and so minutely managed and organised that they are already planning their next Latitude Group Travel STEM adventure for 2018! .

By Suzy Barry, Editor

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