A STEM teacher’s guide to integrating the Bragg Prize in class

The Bragg
According to STEM educator Cherie, choosing a topic can be the hardest part! She suggests in-depth group brainstorms and class discussion to share ideas. Image: Shutterstock

Kirrawee High School have entered the UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing for the last few years! We spoke to the teacher driving the school’s participation about how they integrate the competition in class

Cherie Donohoe is a Science Teacher (Investigating and Biology for Stage 6) at Kirrawee High – a comprehensive co-educational secondary school in Sydney’s South East. In 2021 she used the Bragg Prize as a natural extension to a topic that she’d been discussing with her Year 10 class – heredity. 

“The theme [The STEM in Everyday Life] offered students a chance to focus and extend their understanding of an area of science that fit in with their interests,” she says. “Time in class was allocated to choosing topics and researching.” 

And this year? She’ll be using it as an enrichment activity for her upper Year 7 class. “It aligns with Kirrawee’s plan to improve literacy across the school,” she explains. 

Embrace the planning process

Although Cherie stressed that most of her students thrived through the process, she’s heading into this year with more of a focus on the planning and brainstorming part of essay writing. 

“This year we’ll spend more time analysing past entries and talking about which pieces students find most engaging and why,” she says. “Once they get over the whole choosing-a-topic hump, they do tend to get it right!” 

Cherie’s tips for nurturing students through choosing a topic include:

  • Review past winning entries as exemplars – what sets them apart from the rest?
  • Get students to map out a selection of ideas they might like to pursue.
  •  Divide the class into groups to create mind maps followed by a class discussion to share ideas.
  • Reach out to your English faculty for advice and guidance as they can share specific suggestions on writing for audience. “Make sure they have seen the previous winning entries and understand the style of writing that is required,” she stresses. 

And Cherie’s biggest lesson in engaging the whole class in the process? 

“Make it mandatory – hand out and chase up those permission forms,” she says. “Communicate with the parents about how this competition is an opportunity for students to develop writing and research skills!” 

UNSW Bragg Student Prize for Science Writing 2022

The annual UNSW Bragg Prize is a science essay writing competition open to all Australian high school students in years 7 to 10. Not only are there some awesome prizes up for grabs for you and your class – it’s a great way to complement your studies across all areas including Science, English, History & Geography, Design & Technology and more!

Bragg Prize

Thinking about entering? Get started with these resources!

  1. Frequently Asked Questions
  2. Teacher’s resources
  3. Writing tips from the judges
  4. Download the competition poster
  5. Australian curriculum links
  6. This year’s judges

The competition closes 5pm Friday 19 August 2022. Enter here

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Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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