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.