Science meets Parliament is the event that recognises the importance of Australian scientists in our nation’s future, for environmental, social, cultural and economic benefit. Sarah Chapman attended as executive committee member of Women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) and the conference’s first teacher. Sarah’s unique perspective as an educator gave her insights into the future of motivating kids in STEM, so we sat down with her to find out more about the prestigious event.
How did you come to attend the SMP event?
It was an honour to attend Science meets Parliament as a representative of the Women in STEMM Australia’s executive and also as the first science teacher to attend the event. It was of utmost importance to me to advocate for science education being a vital component of key science events such as Science meets Parliament, to not only promote the profile of science education but shape policy development of STEM and to publicly promote that science, innovation and teaching of science are important contributors to Australian economic, social and environmental well-being.
Who did you meet at the event and what was the important conversations you had?
Day one was all about communication and our message. We heard from leaders in the science communication field who provided key aspects to the refinement of our individual message behind our scientific research. Advocacy and clear positive messaging are so essential in science. This is what shapes everything from public perception, policy and investment in future research. The last session of the day was about refining our pitch, preparing for our meeting with a key politician the following day. This stretched our minds and communicating capabilities to take our two minute pitch to one minute, 30 seconds, followed by finally 15 seconds. The objective, to receive feedback and refine the key messages in our pitch.
Day one concluded with a spectacular Gala Dinner. The MC for the night was the fabulous ABC Science, science communicator Bernie Hobbs, who added a bit of humour to the debate between Hon Bill Shorten MP and Hon Arthur Sinodinos MP about the future of science in Australia. The Gala Dinner was a great event to network and meet representatives from the spectrum of government and science.
Day two started with a spark of inspiration from Australian of the Year Prof Alan Mackay-Smith. This lead to the moment to utilise our refined pitch and meet with a parliamentarian. I had been designated a meeting with Tanya Plibersek MP, Deputy Opposition Leader. She was keen to discuss science education. It was an absolute highlight to meet such an accomplished, confident and articulate female who had such keen interest for science education. I was able to share with her information about Women in STEMM Australia, and the excellent work we do. I was also able to share my passion for science education and my International STEM Fellowship report launch. It was great to share the meeting with highly esteemed and passionate Australian scientists, with a similar vision.
It was wonderful to meet Bill Shorten MP and Karen Andrews MP, who both had visited my school in 2015. It was good to reconnect and share my continued passion for science and science education. I also connected with Dr Tim O’Meara from GE Healthcare, who was able to share years of expertise, and Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen from Tech Girls Movement who is a true inspiration for all her work engaging girls in STEM. I also really enjoyed meeting A/Prof Alan Duffy, Astrophysicist and science communicator, who shared his passion about connecting people at home with science. Our common passion for engaging people with STEM lead to collaborating on an article for ABC Online about STEM engagement in Australia that following week.
How will you incorporate what you learned into your work as an educator?
As an educator it is beneficial to understand the cutting edge of the subjects you teach, to remain current and provide the students you teach with a real picture of Australian scientists in the workforce. It is also beneficial to connect Australian scientists and politicians with the dynamic nature of the classroom, that is rapidly changing in response to our students needs and the fast-paced technological landscape we live in.
What role do you think educators can play at SMP – what are the skills and experience they bring?
Educators are the connection to the future of science. This is where the conveyor belt starts, where students commence their lifelong journeys with science. Having the perspective of the student and educators, enables Australian scientists from research and industry to provide relevant perspectives for the classroom and educators to provide relevant perspectives of the needs of our young people. It ensures a continuity between sectors and promotes connection, communication and collaboration in order to develop our thriving STEM ecosystem.
Would you recommend educators go to SMP?
I think it is essential for there to be a representation of educators at Science meets Parliament. I found the event to be beneficial for building connections and partnerships for programs in my classroom, advocating for the profession and the needs of our students and building an understanding of the current science and STEM landscape that enables me as an educator to be more responsive in my teaching in the classroom.
What are your three key takeaways from the event?
Gender equity in the workplace were key topic, along with the importance of innovation. There was a critical focus on communication and the need to promote science and outcomes to the Australian public.
Sarah Chapman is the Head of Department of Science at Townsville State High School and Executive Committee member of Women in STEMM. Australia Sarah is passionate about inspiring, engaging and empowering people through STEM, to build lifelong connections with the dynamic possibilities of STEM.
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.