From the Principal
This week, St Catherine’s School celebrated National Science Week, commencing with a Keynote Address from Dr Robyn Schofield at our Senior School Assembly. Dr Schofield is currently the Director of Environmental Science Hub and Senior Lecturer at the School of Earth Sciences at The University of Melbourne. Dr Schofield inspired budding St Catherine’s scientist with her career journey travelling the world as a young environmental scientist. This included swimming in every ocean on the planet, comprising a bone-chilling experience in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica and completing her studies on atmospheric chemistry observations and stratospheric ozone loss.
With only 27% of STEM jobs filled by females in Australia today, we need to maintain a strong focus on educating and encouraging girls into this field of work. In the 1970s, just 7% of STEM roles were filled by women; this number tripled in 20 twenty years with a reported 23% noted in the 1990s. However, the figure has almost stagnated since this time, increasing by only 4% in the past twenty years. This needs to change. Australia (and the western world) can ill afford to lose another generation of girls from this industry. If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the STEM fields, we must look to all of the population. More women can contribute to the STEM field.
In the tertiary sector, women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early career researchers but just 17% of senior Australian academics within science are women. The ‘scissor graph’ remains all too familiar depicting the stark reality of gender imbalance in senior roles in science. This can only be discouraging and disheartening for young graduates.
In our Assembly on Monday, it was pleasing to hear presentations from students excited about their science journey thus far at St Catherine’s and last year, this enjoyment was reflected in almost a third of the students transitioning into STEM related tertiary courses. Year 12 students, Amber Chapman and Alexandra Cullen spoke about their attendance at the National Youth Science Forum in Canberra earlier this year and congratulated Year 11 students Michelle Libreri and Madeleine Leggo who have recently been selected to attend the Forum this coming Summer. Fuming (Maggie) Yang described an extraordinary week with Gap Medic in Croatia, and Demi Markakis and Sophie Karunaratne spoke about their experience at the Chemistry Olympiad competition. Our young Year 7 Science Honours students shared their joy of participating in their Science Talent Search ventures – Angela Yu, Poppy Glenning, Ciara Jenkins and Clara Houle-O’Connor.
Head of Science Faculty, Mrs Vanessa Jackson-McRae acknowledged the work of her senior chemistry students who participated in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Titration Competition at the end of last term. Students were provided 90 minutes to determine the concentration of ethanoic acid, commonly known as vinegar for a new range of products being developed by the Vinegar and Sauce Company. A challenging task, requiring refined skill and a depth of chemical knowledge, St Catherine’s finished with two of the five teams selected for the National Competition. Securing a commendable 13th place out of the top 35 teams, with a difference of 0.04mL from the first place team, this was certainly a notable result for Lydia He (Year 12) and Demetria Avdalis (Year 12). Congratulations also to Jessica Walsh (Year 12), Alexandra Garrett (Year 12) and Cluny Gilmour (Year 12) who placed 15th in the competition.
To complete the Science Week Assembly, Science Club leaders, Fuming (Maggie) Yang (Year 12), Sophie Seng Hpa (Year 12) and Ruyan (Lily) Li enticed younger students to participate in the ONeCar STEM Competition. Students will work in groups of two or three to construct their OneCar, complete with a low friction car chassis, four wheels and students using a solar panel, electric motor, capacitor, kitchen chemicals, propeller and more, to design, build and test their car. Once built, the cars will compete with the team car with the greatest speed winning the Science Club OneCar STEM competition.
A visual display of the many Science programs offered at St Catherine’s can be viewed here.
Commencing in the September break this year, the School will undertake an upgrade to our Science Laboratories in the Edna Holmes Centre for Science. Staged over the next year to ensure we fulfil the timetable requirements, it is planned Junior Science classes will commence Term 1, 2018 in two completely refurbished ‘wet’ labs. The Psychology classroom and Physics Lab, designed to house the new TIDE program of Coding, Robotics and Engineering, will take shape in Semester 1 next year. And in the final phase over the Christmas 2018-2019 period, the Chemistry and Biology Labs will be completed in addition to the re-designed Prep Labs and Staffroom with an overlay of a vertical garden on the external façade of the building, and in keeping with the redesign of Senior School Renewal completed in 2014.
The addition of a STEM Lab and specialist Science teacher in the Junior School is also driving the message to our young girls, that Science is important; as important as Language, Music, Art and PE – the other specialist teaching areas typically shaping primary years education.
Congratulations to the Senior School Athletics Team who competed in the Preliminary phase of the GSV Track and Field competition on Wednesday of this week. On the base of a strong running culture fostered by both Mr Tom Crebbin and Mr Lloyd Knight, and an outstanding Cross Country season last Term whereby St Catherine’s finished 3rd overall from 24 schools; the athletes have again proved they ‘punch above weight’. They will push to compete in Division 1 GSV Track and Field Competition in the coming weeks.
Director of Student Programs, Mrs Gina Peele and I enjoyed a leisurely drive to Mt Evelyn, the location of our 2017 Music Camp last weekend. The Camp provides an intensive period of rehearsal in preparation for the forthcoming Gala Concert on Friday 1 September. All students in Years 5 to 12 are required to attend the Gala with every student involved in the Massed James Bond themed choral performance. The glimpse of rehearsals Mrs Peele and I observed at Music Camp revealed a promising evening of brilliant musicianship. The Gala Concert commences at 6.30pm at the Melbourne Recital centre, with booking tickets essential for the evening. Tickets can be purchased here.