Gamification – A pathway into Earth Science and Resources Career Awareness

Urbaniak, Suzy1

1CoRE Learning Foundation, Perth, Australia

Have you ever wondered how to make your Earth Science curriculum interesting, relevant, and loaded with 21st-century enterprising skills such as leadership, communication, and collaboration whilst engaging in an interdisciplinary and assessable format? The answer is gamification. It is a well-known fact that young students interest lies in being active, problem-solving learners, who want to explore and discover their learning experience in real-time and be an integral and informed member of an innovative and creative situation.

Australia’s resources industry is a key driver of our economic growth, however student understanding and progression into the industry are at an unprecedented low point. It’s never been more important for Australia’s future to create this awareness and expose our students to the beauty of earth science and the diverse, STEM career pathways into the resources industry.

The resources industry recognises that meaningful K-12 engagement highlighting its’ innovation and contribution to mainstream society is vital to strengthening STEM capabilities across the sector. To appreciate and develop an understanding and career passion for the resources industry, learning needs to commence early and be engaging, continuing, purposeful and applicable.

The scope and sequence of this proposal begins in Year 5 and continues through middle school to Year 10, assessable, and correlating with the ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment & Reporting Authority) curriculum. This opportunity creates and delivers sustainable, engaging, and impactful 3D resources-based gamification learning products, utilising an Earth Science context but also integrating and extending other scientific disciplines, data literacy and science, the design and digital technology, and social value through the humanities curriculums.

Gaming technology is hands-on, interactive learning which is both available and enjoyable to engage both the educator and the student, taking them on a #therealclassroom journey, with immersive, real-world experiences. More importantly, gamification learning has the potential to reach the full spectrum of remote and regional communities in which the resources industry operates, thereby helping to ensure that the learning experiences are inclusive and representative of the industry’s footprint.

The proposal for a Year 6 and a Year 8 pilot program is progressing from concept through to development and is scheduled for release in semester two 2021 for trialing, nationally through pilot schools. Educating the educator through this student-centered, project-based learning scenario is a priority for the project team. Unlike, other STEM initiatives that tend to be extracurricular or ‘bolt-ons’, this gamification initiative is integrated and aligned with the national curricula. Its STEM learning format encompasses the ACARA’s General Capabilities, Aboriginal Framework, and Cross-Curricula priorities.

The gamification project will enhance students’ STEM capabilities and will serve as a vital link between learning and the creation of viable talent pools for the industry to draw upon. This adaptive learning platform will be organic and progressive and shaped through the collaboration of industry, game developers, and educators to ensure that the material and experiential learning experience will remain relevant, interesting fun and meaningful, for all community members to enjoy, engage and learn from.


Suzy is a geologist who became an educator. She developed the CoRE Learning Model (CLM) to promote Earth Science education and resources career awareness. In 2017, she co-founded the CoRE Learning Foundation, to support CoRE Expansion. In 2016, Suzy received the Prime Minister’s Secondary Science Teaching Award for the CLM.

Squiggly lines, mountains, organised chaos or Forrest Gump.  What is the image of a geoscience career?

Tiddy, Caroline1; Andrahannadi, Upekha2,3; Perera, Sanjeewa2,3; Sardeshmukh, Shruti2,3

1Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia, , 5000, 2UniSA Business, University of South Australia, , 5000, 3Centre for Workplace Excellence (CWeX), University of South Australia, , 5005

Diversity at strategic levels is recognised as a key to improved organisational performance and innovation.  Diversity takes many forms.  Gender diversity (male and female for simplicity) is the focus of this research. 

STEM fields struggle with gender equality, with fewer women in senior roles (SAGE, 2019).  Geoscience is no exception.  More than 80% of the mining workforce is male, with even fewer women in leadership positions (WEGA, 2018).  In academia, 35.4% of Level A (Research Associate) and only 8.7% of Level E (Professor) academic appointments in Earth Sciences are female (ERA 2018 FoR 04:Earth Sciences).  Numerous organisations that undertake geoscience-related activities have taken steps to correct this imbalance.  Many have achieved Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena SWAN Bronze Award Accreditation (  Senior male figures within geoscience-related organisations identify with the Male Champions of Change group who are committed to acting on gender inequality (

We present results of an interview-based study of 60 geoscientists from junior through senior levels from academia, government and industry and that provide insights into geoscientists’ career perceptions.  Perceptions are powerful and shape how we approach our careers, therefore gender differences in perceptions may explain underlying reasons for gender inequality.  Interviews examined participants’ career from undergraduate studies to their current position.  Towards the interview conclusion, respondents were asked to provide a visual metaphor (e.g., an image, movie or cartoon character) describing their career and then the career of the opposite gender.  Metaphors were used as they are a playful exercise that can provide structure and organisation to our perceptions of a complex topic; in this case perception of careers.

Data analysis highlights that irrespective of gender, geoscientists viewed their career as non-linear.  Women geoscientists’ career metaphors include dimensions of being challenging and incomplete (e.g., “squiggly line always moving forwards and progressing”; “a mountain and a little person not at the top”), whereas men often see their careers as being rewarding and having achieved (e.g. “Forrest Gump – not the smartest guy in the room but somehow always landed on his feet”; “spiralling nebular with kind of order… sort of a chaos…  But also, it’s all worked”).

Perceptions of the opposite gender are contrasting.  Women geoscientists often described male geoscientists’ careers as having overcome challenges, achieved a pinnacle and used dominating figures such as silverback gorillas and the Incredible Hulk.  Ideologies with negative connotations were expressed in some perceptions with women describing men as being within a “boys’ club” or as “old, white men with a beard”.  Male geoscientists described women as “starting to find their voice”, “not as appreciated” and “incredibly capable” where their career path is more challenging than that of a male (e.g. “uphill battle”, “getting over a big mountain”).

This study provides a spirited way to identify perceptual barriers to women in geosciences. The overt masculine perception of geosciences belies the broad range of positive experiences women geoscientists report. Our research goal is to identify enablers to women’s careers, which will help remove these perceptions and attract talented people to geoscience careers.


Caroline is geoscientist in the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia.  She is passionate about applied research that fundamentally impacts the geoscience industry and in developing the next generation of young, balanced scientists who will have the opportunity to engage in a workplace of equality and diversity.

Supporting the 3 Rs of earth science education – rocks, relevance and rapture!

Meakin, Simone1; Filan, Susan2

1Geological Survey of New South Wales, Department of Regional NSW, Maitland, Australia, 2Australian Earth Science Education, Londonderry, Australia

In 2018, the New South Wales (NSW) high school curriculum for Earth & Environmental Science was overhauled. There is new emphasis on both renewable and non-renewable resources, exploration techniques including sampling and geophysical surveying, and rehabilitation after mining. In response to the need for new teaching materials, the Geological Survey of NSW (GSNSW) expanded its outreach to educators. A range of general interest publications, hands-on activities, display sets, events and workshops have been delivered, and self-guided geotrails developed.

GSNSW also investigated the engagement of an education officer to support educators in NSW. It sought guidance from teachers and groups such as Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA), a successful industry-sponsored organisation that has supported teachers in WA for 15 years by providing teacher training, school incursions and excursions, and a wide range of high-quality teaching resources. In 2020, ESWA expanded to establish Australian Earth Science Education (AusEarthEd)and recruited an education officer in NSW, based at the GSNSW’s WB Clarke Geoscience Centre at Londonderry, western Sydney. Ongoing collaboration between the organisations has enabled targeting of some products and resources to address the curriculum, thereby better supporting teachers.

The widespread lockdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on geoscience outreach and education activities. Many activities and projects were moved online, and teachers relied heavily on online resources. The launch of the Newcastle Coastal Geotrail and a supporting app by the GSNSW in August 2020 was accompanied by a series of videos and a webinar that presented geological information in a new and engaging way. This had unprecedented reach, attracting over 400 attendees to the webinar and over 100,000 views of the video on social media. A significant number of teachers have since made use of the NSWGeoTour app that features a self-guided tour of the geological features and historical context of the area. AusEarthEd also mapped the geotrail content against the Year 1‒12 curriculum in Science, History and Geography, suggesting real and virtual excursions for teachers.

It is helpful to map educational resources to the curriculum so that teachers can immediately see relevance to the curriculum. For discoverability, resources must be delivered through accessible websites that teachers use regularly. Ongoing collaboration between geoscientists and teachers, including enhanced creative development of online teaching resources, will be vital to meet the evolving demands of teachers and students.


Simone has worked with the GSNSW for many years, firstly as a field geologist and now managing its small publications and outreach team. Susan is an experienced Earth & Environmental Science teacher and Education Officer with Australian Earth Science Education located in NSW.

Geoscience Education Challenges and Opportunities – An Industry Perspective

Terry, Jillian1

1BHP, Melbourne, Australia

The resources industry is transforming due to technology application, discovery and extraction of increasingly deep and complex orebodies, a changing future-facing commodity and energy mix and environmental and social value commitments.

At the same time, an ageing and experienced technical workforce is contemplating retirement; early career geoscientists require upskilling; universities face severe financial challenges, breadth of Geoscience career options isn’t understood and resources industry perception is at an all-time low. These factors are contributing to unprecedented low numbers of enrolments in Geoscience degrees.

Australia needs a consistent supply of diverse, quality geoscience graduates and access to workforce development programs to meet forecast industry and societal demand.

This paper will propose collaboration opportunities for educators, government and industry to inform, influence and support students to build careers in geoscience.


Jill Terry  has worked in various operational and leadership roles in mine, project, resource and exploration geology in Australia and offshore. As Vice President Technical Capability for BHP she is delivering educational initiatives to optimise future ways of working underpinned by technology and innovation.

How do we attract the next generation of Earth Scientists

Selway, Kate1, Condon, Jo2, Przeslawski, Rachel3, Tiddy, Caroline4, Underwood, Narelle5, Cohen, David6

1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia, 2Marketing and Communications, AuScope, 3Discovery and Engagement, Geoscience Australia, 4Future Industries Institute and MinEx CRC, University of South Australia, 5NSW Surveyor-General and Chair, NSW Surveying Taskforce, 6School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales and Australian Geoscience Council

Join us to discuss how we might collectively and effectively promote pathways to diverse, exciting and meaningful Earth Science careers to late high school students across Australia.

Earth Science education in Australia is facing critical challenges. University Earth Science departments face low numbers of undergraduate student enrolments, which in some cases are threatening their viability. These low undergraduate enrolments reflect weak interest in Earth Science at the high school level, and result in insufficient skilled graduates to meet industry needs. This is bad for Australia, which needs skilled geoscientists for its environmental and economic future, bad for industry, which needs skilled graduates to continue to innovate, and bad for the students themselves, who miss out on fulfilling careers.

In this presentation we discuss efforts to promote Earth Science to students in late high school. We consider this to be a key focus within broader strategies to improve Earth Science education more generally. Students at this level are actively considering their university study options and many have little exposure to Earth Science or have negative perceptions of the field. University-level Earth sciences in Australia typically boast a higher than average retention of students from first year to subsequent years. Therefore, successful programs that attract more high school students into Earth Science could substantially increase graduate numbers even on a five-year time frame.

Many existing programs, run by government, industry, and academic groups, are already aiming to promote Earth Science pathways to high school students and in this presentation we will summarize some of these programs. Any successful program must be student-focussed and respond to the students’ own priorities, as illustrated by the increasing numbers of students studying climate science. Therefore, we will also summarize some of the broader data surrounding the attitudes and priorities of late high-school students. We consider the attributes of programs in other fields, most notably surveying, that have successfully produced measurable increases in high school student engagement and higher education enrolments. We present this analysis in the hope that it will help guide the discussion on how we can most effectively ignite the interest of late high-school students in pursuing Earth Science.


The authors come from a range of backgrounds in academia, government and industry and are united in wanting to help inspire more people to get excited about Earth Science.

Geology comes alive for high school students with fieldwork near Yass, NSW

Price, Colin1, Bradshaw, Marita2, Smith, Mike2

1Daramalan College P.O.Box 84 Dickson ACT 2602, Australia; 2National Rock Garden, Suite 8, Level 2,141 Peats Ferry Road, Hornsby, NSW 2077, Australia

Daramalan College provides Earth and Environmental Science (EES) students with direct exposure to the challenges of geological analysis by conducting practical field excursions. One excursion takes Year 11 students to a field northwest of Yass where there is a prominent exposure of a volcanic ash flow, an ignimbrite, which is overlain by a sequence of various sedimentary rocks. All of the units dip at about 20 degrees to the west, enabling students to walk across the rocks and so recognise and describe the layered sequence of sandstone, siltstone and limestone. The exposures are in creek beds and on gently undulating sheep pasture.

The students describe what they can see and then interpret the depositional environment for each rock unit, noting the progressive changes in that environment from the older rocks to the younger rocks. The sequence records a marine transgression, from volcanics on land to shallow water with coral patches, and then deep water as the shales were deposited by settling of fine particles. The students experience the reality of fieldwork, contrasting the poor to non-existent outcrop of the fine-grained units to the thrill of finding fossils in the limestones. The most common fossils are tabulate and rugose corals, crinoid ossicles and stromatoporoids that help bring alive a picture of what life was like in an ancient shallow tropical sea.

The rocks are part of the Silurian (Wenlock) section of the Yass Syncline in the Lachlan Foldbelt, from the Laidlaw Volcanics up into the Bowspring Limestone Member, Silverdale Formation, Hattons Corner Group. Radiometric dating of the volcanics and a biostratigraphic age from a conodont in the limestone indicates that the sequence the students investigate represents about 3 million years of earth history.

By examining the remains of a volcanic chain and an ancient seabed now found as rocks outcropping in the paddocks near Yass, the students have a rich educational experience and get a sense of the environmental changes that can occur over an interval of geological time. Science staff at Daramalan College are also enthusiastic about the capacity of the National Rock Garden to help teachers to engage with young people studying the rock cycle in Year 8, plate tectonics in Year 9 and those undertaking the Year 11/12 EES course. In one place they can view a great variety of lithologies from all over Australia, displayed in large and interesting rock specimens with polished areas that provide a window to view in detail igneous and metamorphic textures, sedimentary structures, and fossils.


Colin Price was an exploration geologist for 20 years before becoming an Earth and Environmental Science (EES) teacher at Daramalan College in Canberra. Colin received a Highly Commended award in the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, for promoting open-ended learning and for his work in EES education.

100 iconic rocks for a proof-of-concept display at the National Rock Garden

Pillans, Brad1

1Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

The economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic will make it extremely difficult to fund the published masterplan for the National Rock Garden (NRG). As a result, the NRG cannot expect substantial financial support from Federal or State Governments, or from the corporate sector, in the foreseeable future.

Early in 2020, the NRG Steering Committee recognised the desirability of a “Proof-of-Concept” display of approximately 100 iconic rocks. This display would incorporate 10 themed rock clusters, linked by a meandering path, with appropriate explanatory signage. It would entail negligible excavation work, and no building construction, facilitating both works approval and reduced funding requirements.

The main financial outlay would be the cost of transportation of large (10-20 tonne) specimens, especially from distant locations. Transportation costs for individual rocks are expected to range between $2,000 and $12,000 which could be achieved with corporate support or by individual donations. NRG State Rock Selections Sub-Committees are fine-tuning their key targets to enable a small number of rocks to be delivered during 2021.

The “Proof-of-Concept” display will clearly demonstrate the goals of the National Rock Garden, and encourage modest levels of financial support. The proposed “Proof-of-Concept” display would also enable the Rock Garden to be opened to the public much sooner than could possibly occur with the original highly ambitious masterplan

The Steering Committee has recognised the desirability of developing strong links with the other national institutions in Canberra, including the National Museum of Australia, Questacon, the National Dinosaur Museum and the National Arboretum Canberra.

We also support establishment of a Natural History Museum, though this has not progressed beyond the 2018 parliamentary report which recommended that a business case be examined.

Proposed rock cluster themes for the NRG Proof-of-Concept display:

  1. Indigenous welcome feature
  2. Early Earth (Archean) – laying Australia’s foundations
  3. Building Australia and its resources (Proterozoic)
  4. Australia grows eastwards (Paleozoic)
  5. Gondwana breakup (Mesozoic) – the Great Artesian Basin forms
  6. Shaping the Australian landscape (Cenozoic)
  7. Peopling Australia (Late Pleistocene/Holocene) – linking cultural and geological heritages
  8. The Australian region – from New Guinea to Antarctica
  9. Geoscience knowledge – building our future
  10. The Federation Rocks – celebrating our nation


Brad Pillans is an Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU, and Director of the National Rock Garden. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of Australia and served as GSA President from 2010 to 2012.

Earth Science Education after 2020

Blewett, Shona1, Przeslawski, Rachel1

1Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia

Many people fondly remember assembling their first rock collection or exploding a baking soda volcano as a child. These experiences can be a great gateway into the Earth sciences, but a more tailored and modern approach will ensure future generations are geoscience-literate and eventually able to contribute to the workforce. In this presentation, we use the Geoscience Australia (GA) Education Program as a case study of changing approaches to Earth science education and engagement.

For over 20 years, the remit of the GA Education Program has been to engage and inspire school students and teachers in geoscience. Before 2020, over 10 000 students visited the Education Centre each year. The physical facilities, curriculum-based programs and the dedicated staff were central to the ongoing success of the school-age education programs.

However, with the cessation of all school visits during 2020 due to the pandemic, the program shifted its focus to digital engagement, including a series of short educational videos, virtual visits with classes and webinars for teachers. This in turn has raised challenges such as transferring a tactile experience to the virtual setting and the sometimes overwhelming flood of digital resources and virtual fatigue common after 2020. In parallel there has also been increasing emphasis on education about emerging geoscience topics that receive limited attention in schools (e.g. earth observation, positioning, critical minerals).

Moving forward, we will continue efforts to develop topical virtual educational experiences, particularly for remote or disadvantaged schools unable to visit our building. When we resume face-to-face experiences, a major challenge will be to juggle the demands of on-site and digital engagement to make our products and facilities available for all.


Shona is the manager of the Geoscience Education team and regularly delivers virtual and in-person training and presentations for students and teachers.

Rachel is the Director of the GA Discovery & Engagement program and a marine scientist.

The real work of virtual teaching: Learnings from EESO Summer School 2021 development

McNamara, Greg1, Almberg, Leslie1 and Carr, Ruth1

1Australian Science Innovations, Australia

The Australian Earth and Environmental Science Olympiad (EESO) program selects 24 high-ability high school students from Years 9, 10 & 11 to attend a Sumer School program in each January.

The EESO Summer School program, delivered annually at RSES-ANU, provides a life-changing educational experience for the students. The residential camp is an intense two weeks of Earth & Environmental Science learning combined with the fun of spending time with like-minded peers and participating in associated social activities.

In 2020, the EESO Summer School was postponed due to the extreme smoke conditions on campus, with the majority of the theory progressively placed online through February and March. Students were given an opportunity to engage with teachers in a weekly Q&A session via SLACK. An on-campus practical session planned for April was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, with the final assessment – based on the online theory materials – delivered via Moodle to all students across the country.

Here we discuss the lessons learned from this rapid-response on-line teaching program and how we applied them to the 2021 EESO Summer School program to avoid the pitfalls of poor content quality, ineffective engagement and inadequate assessment. The aim of the 2021 program was to deliver the same content we provide in the face-to-face environment in an engaging, rewarding and socially beneficial manner. The additional aim is to utilise virtual teaching tools developed for the 2021 event in future face-to-face events.

Plans include: time-managed online delivery of synchronous and asynchronous theory content; limited, but essential, hands-on content based on materials supplied to each student; and supplementary online 3D simulations of materials and field locations. In addition to content, we plan to provide socially engaging opportunities via games, team challenges, and digital and physical rewards.

The Q&A during the AESC will provide an opportunity to discuss how these plans panned out within the context of the programme delivered in January 2021 to 30 students by a team of three senior staff and ~8 program alumni.


Greg is a qualified  geologist and teacher with 35+ years experience in education and outreach. He is also the Executive Officer of TESEP.

Leslie is volcanologist with a wealth of award-winning undergraduate geoscience teaching experience.

Ruth has over 15 years experience managing large-scale science awareness events  including National Science Week.

Coping with COVID – Using Virtual Geological Objects for On-Line Earth Science Education

Roach, Dr Michael1, Orth, Dr Karin1, Scott,Dr Robert1

1Earth Sciences, University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Restrictions due to the global COVID pandemic have meant that most tertiary Earth science education has had to rapidly transition from face-to-face to primarily on-line delivery. Teaching Earth science in on-line environments has special challenges due to the ‘hands-on’ nature of typical practical and field-based programs. Fortunately, rapid improvements in visualisation methods and technology now allow educators to incorporate diverse, intuitive, immersive virtual objects into on-line education programs. Virtual objects can never fully replace the visual and tactile experience of visiting an outcrop or touching a specimen but they can augment and enrich traditional education programs and facilitate more effective on-line student experiences. 

At the University of Tasmania we have generated the world’s most comprehensive open-access collection of geological visualisations and have made extensive use of these objects in our undergraduate and postgraduate education programs. We have generated over 4000 photo-realistic three-dimensional geological models, together with thousands of full spherical panoramas and deep zoom images of significant outcrops and hand specimens. These visualisations have been integrated to produce virtual tours and virtual practicals that were used in our education programs prior to COVID and which have been crucial for recent on-line delivery. Student feedback on the use of virtual educational material has generally been very positive.

This presentation will showcase some of our recently developed resources and illustrate how we have utilised digital visualisations in our undergraduate and postgraduate educational programs. We will also discuss both student and educator perceptions on the efficacy of these new teaching resources and provide suggestions for how visualisations may be effectively integrated into future conventional educational programs when physical distancing limitations are removed.    


Michael Roach is an Earth Science educator at the University of Tasmania who has been pioneering new interactive, intuitive virtual methods for Earth Science education.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.