Two teachers reveal how they integrated the UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing Competition in class. Get details on how to enter, this year’s topic and all the great prizes here.
Dr Lou Puslednik, Science & STEM Education Officer, St Matthews Catholic High School
Lou first learned about the UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing, a competition that has been running for 8 years, from the school’s English co-ordinator and planned to run the 2020 essay writing competition with Year 9 as part of integrated learning.
Then COVID-19 hit, and with schools rapidly shutdown, she decided to run the competition with the whole of Year 7 as part of a unit that looked at climate change and the enhanced greenhouse effect.
“Many students were still remote learning so we used the competition as a way for them to have a choice in their writing. That was really lovely as they chose all different types of areas to research.”
To do the Science Writing Competition in class, students address an essay question in 800w but choose the angle of the essay.
“I was really impressed at level of writing – I haven’t done that level of writing in year 7 before, and some of the students were amazing. I ended up passing the essays on to the Principal and also sent them home to parents.”
Lou says the students gained a lot from the experience, which also led to St Matthews receiving the regional schools prize for most entries.
“Students really liked it – to employ the techniques they learn in English was great – they still had to do the science research but to pull it all together was really rewarding. It lets them draw on their creativity.
“Any scientists need to be able to communicate with the general public.”
Cherie Donohow, Investigating Science Teacher, Kirrawee High School
Cherie ran the competition with her Year 8 class as an assignment that involved research – enabling students to choose appropriate sources and build up their skills in writing.
Her advice is to make it mandatory for the class.
“You may as well get the permission form signed and go in the competition as a mandatory class exercise. I want 95% of all of the students to get involved. It’s well worth doing and if you don’t give a kids a push they wont get motivated. Once they got into it and chose their topic they were enthusiastic about it.
Cherie’s class submitted a bunch of entries and scored the metropolitan school prize for most entries.
“It was a really positive experience and winning the prize was fantastic.
“I could see how it could be an assessment task that ticks so many boxes, evaluating sources, writing scientifically – it ticks so many skills.”
Interested in submitting your essay?
Author: Heather Catchpole
Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs