About brittgow

I am a Science and Maths teacher at a small rural school in western Victoria, Australia. I live on a sheep property with my husband and two children, who also attend Hawkesdale P12 College. I am passionate about education for sustainability, indigenous flora and fauna and love teaching!

Day 3: Singapore Zoo and Global Youth Summit Opening

Our girls in front of the friendly family of orangutans.

Our girls in front of the friendly family of orangutans.

Singapore Zoo

Today we had an early start. We headed off from the resort after breakfast and caught a fast train towards the singapore zoo, changing trains once and then catching a public bus for the rest of the journey. When we got to the zoo we originally thought that we would have 45 min to look around at all of the animals but as the morning went on we found out that we had another 45min. The Singapore zoo is so beautiful with no fences separating us and the monkeys in the tree. although we didn’t have enough time to do many of the activities that the zoo offered we did things such as having photos sitting directly in front of a family of Orangutans that were eating on a branch and go for a tour on the zoo tram to have a break from all of the walking that we had done. Other highlights of the Zoo were the “show girls” (a flock of flamingoes), the white tigers, Asian elephants and the giraffe. Arron liked the warthogs, naked mole-rats and squirrels!
Mrs Gow arranged for a charter coach to collect us from the Zoo and take us back to the hotel to get ready for the conference, so that we would not be late for the Opening Ceremony.

Singapore Science Centre

Singapore Science Centre

Singapore Science Centre and GYS Opening

We arrived at the Singapore Science Centre and were escorted through to the air-conditioned marquee, where the conference was to be held. We were served an extensive Asian-style buffet lunch in our re-usable, recyclable, collapsible GYS containers. On the official opening of the inaugural “Actions for Earth – Global Youth Summit” we welcomed Dr Vivian Balakrishnan the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. He discussed the issues facing our world and expressed strongly about the importance of the Youth Summit and how our actions could help to reduce even more global warming. Upon opening we were welcomed by an Australian singer, Ms Corinne Gibbons and Eco Music Challenge winners.

Lunch served by the friendly GYS facilitators

Lunch served by the friendly GYS facilitators

We listened to two motivational speakers who encouraged us to come up with simple but effective ideas that could have the potential to change the world. Again we were served a wide variety of Asian foods that ranged from Singapore noodles to stir-fry. After tea we met with our teams and discussed where we were from and how old we were. They made sure everyone had everything that they needed and talked about what we would be doing the following day. When we left the Science Centre and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Day 2: Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, Cloud forest Dome, Supertrees and Chinatown Tour.

The Singapore Flyer


Students in a capsule on the Singapore Flyer

 The Cloud Forest Dome

The Amazing Vertical Garden in the Cloud Forest Dome

The Amazing Vertical Garden in the Cloud Forest Dome

Inside the Cloud Forest Dom

SuperTrees and Skywalk

Gardens by the Bay and SuperTrees

Gardens by the Bay and SuperTrees

Chinatown Tour – Wong’s Calligraphy Studio, Chinese Banquet, ChinaTown Shopping, Trishaw Ride and Bumboat Tour.

Faridah, our wonderful guide, Chris and the student team on the “bumboat” at Clarke’s Quay, Chinatown.

Faridah, our wonderful guide, collected us in the charter bus and took us to Chinatown. As we got closer, there were more and more Chinese New Year decorations. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse, so there were hundreds of horse lanterns lighting up the streets. When we arrived in the heart of Chinatown we walked to Wong’s Calligraphy Studio, where a Chinese artist wrote our names in Chinese on fans to keep as a souvenier. After drying our fans, we walked through the very busy markets and climbed the steps to the restaurant where we were to have our Chinese banquet.The food that came out was very different to what we would usually have. There was many dishes to eat and had to try to work our way through them by using chopsticks. We enjoyed dumplings, crispy-skin chicken, fried rice, sweet and sour fish, green tea and banana and red bean fritters. After filling up on our dinner we then went to do some shopping around the markets for about 30 mins. Many of us came back with bags of stuff, including gifts and souvenirs, which we then carried with us to our trishaw ride. The trishaw ride was great. Most of us students had never been on one before so it was a new experience. We passed a lot of Chinatown, getting a quick view of most of it. We then arrived at the bumboat. On the bumboat we experienced scenic night views of the lights of Singapore, which was amazing.

The “bumboat” is a traditional craft that was used to transport good to and from Clarke’s Quay, when Singapore was becoming established as an international trading port. In the present day Singapore Harbour is one of the busiest trading ports in the world, with bulk container carriers lined up, waiting to load and unload. Our guide, Faridah, explained that Singapore has experienced exponential growth over the past 50 years and is expected to continue to grow. We then went back to the hotel hoping for a long night’s sleep.

Gaming and 3D Printing at Quantum

Last Thursday 24th October 37 students from Hawkesdale College were at school at 6.00am, ready for a four hour coach trip to Quantum Victoria. Quantum is one of the specialist Science and Technology Schools in Victoria, “bringing the world of science and maths to life through games technology, augmented reality, project based learning, virtual reality, robotics and mechatronics.” Year 8 students had selected the 3D printing workshop, while the Year 9/10 elective students chose Game Development. We had about three hours in total, which allowed for each student to create two designs – one in SketchUp on laptops and one in 123D Creature on iPads. Students were able to observe a 3D printer in action and handle some of the 3D printed objects that had been created. Their SketchUp designs (earphone holders) will be printed and posted, as that part can be more time consuming. There are a range of 3D printers on site, from a $50,000 version to a $500 version, and one being put together by Year 9 girls who come in from Charles LaTrobe High School at lunchtime, to build one using 3D printed parts!

So, what are the learning outcomes? Students were given the opportunity to “jump in” feet first, with virtually no instructions, using MacBook and Alienware computers. After stepping through a few introductory activities, they were given the task to create two “key holes” and design a holder for earplugs around them. All students, even our students with special needs (low literacy & numeracy, autism spectrum disorder and ADHD) achieved success, with students who finished early giving peer-to-peer support. Students saw that anything they could create in SketchUp could be 3D printed, but soon realized that long narrow pieces would be fragile. So, “design thinking” was important for the finished product.

Some examples of the uses of 3D printing were shared, as well as the prediction that most Australian households will own a 3D printer by 2030. Joel from Quantum explained that instead of having a warehouse of spare parts, Boeing have a database of 3D “blueprints” that enable any part to be 3D printed in titanium, on demand. In Australia recently we heard about the racehorse who had his hooves scanned to create custom, 3D printed titanium horseshoes, which are stronger, lighter and fit better, to give him a distinct advantage on the track! I like the medical uses – a man who had part of his skull 3D printed and the 3D printed ‘cast’ for broken limbs, that is waterproof, light and allows air and water to circulate, preventing the appendage from getting itchy and allowing the person to go swimming and have showers. There is a duck with an amputated leg that can walk again due to a 3D printed webbed foot and an American bald eagle with a 3D printed beak! Some people believe that in future, we will no longer dash off to Bunnings to buy a specific tool or part, but get online and buy a plan to print one at home.

What does this mean for our students? They may no longer get a job in retail as easily, but perhaps there will be employment for students who can design, create, reverse-engineer and visualize solutions. Ballarat Grammar is preparing students for just that kind of future with their Year 8 Rocketry program, “To Houston…..and Beyond!” http://bgsrocketry.weebly.com/

Conservation Careers at the Zoo

Kat Fox, Education officer at Melbourne Zoo, speaking to our students at “Conservation Careers”.

On Friday, twelve students from Year 9 and 10 had the opportunity to attend a special program in Melbourne, “Conservation Careers at the Zoo”. It was an early start, with a 5.30am train departure from Warrnambool, arriving at Southern Cross just after 9.00am. We arrived at the Zoo to hear from Kat Fox, an education officer, who explained her previous experiences to eventually get her present job, which included work at the Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. We also heard from Rachel Lowry, who has “the best job in the world’ as the Director of Wildlife and Conservation Science at Zoos Victoria. She is responsible for the different conservation programs, such as “Wipe for Wildlife” and “Don’t Palm us Off”. One of the challenges of her job is prioritizing funding for threatened species. One of the most interesting speakers was Dr. Marissa Parrot, a reproductive biologist, who spoke about her role with managing the breeding programs, including the genetics of captive bred animals (did you know that domestic animals have a much smaller brain size than wild animals?). Other speakers included zookeeper Adrian Howard (Carnivore and Ungulate Precinct Manager), Fiona Ryan (Veterinary Nurse) and Andrew Eadon (Education Officer).

A common theme amongst all the guest speakers was the competitive nature of the field and the requirement to be passionate, flexible, persistent and willing to volunteer for various positions to demonstrate your commitment. A high VCE score to enable you to access your chosen course and excellent university marks are also valuable on a curriculum vitae. If you would like to do work experience at the Zoo in Year 11, you will need to apply this year. Forms are available for download from the Zoos Victoria website.

Australian Seismometers in Schools Program


Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Michelle Salmon and her colleagues from the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne to the school. Their mission was to install a seismometer, which is an instrument for measuring local, regional and distant earthquakes, up to 6,000 kilometers away. We were one of 42 schools chosen from across Australia to host this equipment, funded by the Education component of the AuScope Australian Geophysical Observing System. The main aims of this project are to:

  • Increase community awareness of earthquakes
  • Raise awareness of seismology and geoscience as fields of study
  • Promote science as a possible career
  • Provide tools and resources to assist in teaching physics and earth science in schools
  • Provide real-time, research quality data to the seismological community

Teachers will be able to use the data obtained with students and also arrange class presentations from the AuSiS researchers via Skype or Blackboard Collaborate. You can ‘Like’ the Australian Seismometers in Schools page for more information about the program or check out their website at Australian Seismometers in Schools.

Digital Footprint Competition

digital footprint winners

Congratulations to all students from Grade 5 to 8 who participated in the “What Does My Digital Footprint Say About Me?” competition. We recieved some excellent posters, pieces of writing, music and multimedia projects demonstrating a very good understanding of appropriate online behaviour. The winners are shown above, with great prizes donated by Target, Dick Smith and IT Made Simple. Thanks also to Mrs Davey, who did a great job assisting students with their entries and co-ordinating the entry process. The winners are:
Nicky Oosthuizen – Year 5/6 Writing (Target Voucher)
Billy-Jo Parsons-Muskee – Year 7/8 Writing (Dick Smith MP3 player)
Thalia Watson – Year 7/8 Poster ($20 iTunes voucher)
Ben Casey and Luke Gow – Year 7/8 Music (Rap) ($20 iTunes voucher)
Sophie Hines – Year 5/6 Multimedia (Digital video camera donated by IT Made Simple)
Sarah Herring – Year 7/8 Multimedia (Digital video camera donated by IT Made Simple).

GHCMA Education Award


We were very proud of Emily and Chris when they accepted the RMIT University Education Award at the Glenelg Hopkins CMA Environmental Achievement Awards on Wednesday night. This is the second time in the nine years of the awards that Hawkesdale College has been recognised for their outstanding achievements in education for sustainability. The school has identified criteria to assess those which are valuable educational opportunities, meeting student learning needs and curriculum requirements, as well as achieving good environmental outcomes. Successful community partnerships, passionate teachers, effective communication and long-term planning are all essential elements in the achievement of these environmental sustainability projects. The following examples are just some of the learning opportunities our students have participated in:

Youth Environment Conferences
Bush Food, Fibre and Medicine garden
Waterwise Garden
Permaculture Garden with fruit, vegetables and herbs
International Energy Project
Constructing Nesting Boxes
Bridal creeper and Biological Control
Walking trail at the Hawkesdale Common
Port Fairy Rail Trail
Tree planting at local farms and reserves
Threatened species projects
Waterwatch education

Year 11 Work Experience


Nine Year 11 students spent two weeks in Melbourne, at two different YHA hostels and working at two different placements over the past fortnight. Job placements included Knox Private Hospital, Australian Education Union, Hearld and Weekly Times, Revolution IT and the Melbourne Children’s Court. There were many night time activities to explore Melbourne: Lebanese meal in Sydney Road Brunswick, Ice skating, swimming at the Aquatic Centre and a five course meal at the Sofitel Hotel, where students met the chef in the 5-star kitchen.

Year 11 work experience is an exciting opportunity that allows students to become confident using public transport, gives them a new perspective on urban life and prepares them for tertiary education and employment. Many past students have recalled it as the highlight of their school years and teachers and parents have noticed the mature and resilient attitude that students return with, after two weeks in the ‘big smoke’. Thanks to Mr Poynton for organising this experience over many years, as well as Mrs Ballard and Mr Quinlan who have continued to provide this excellent opportunity for Hawkesdale students.

What does your Digital Footprint say about you?


This year is the first year that all students from year 5 to 12 have personal net books for use inside and outside school hours. We have become a true 1:1 school, in which every student has access to a computer. As well as interactive learning objects and the ability to communicate, research and store resources and student work, students have the opportunity to create a variety of products that demonstrate their learning. Some of our teachers have made the most of this opportunity, offering online resources and class blogs.

 If your student is away from school for any reason, they have the ability to access some of their teacher’s work requirements online. Even if your child is at school, you can access the blogs to find out what work is going on in the classroom and what homework may be required. You can find some links to teacher’s blogs in the blogroll to the right of this post.

 Many students have been using their net books to access social networking sites, such as Facebook, MSN, MySpace, Skype and others. The school encourages safe and appropriate use of the internet and reminds students of the agreement they signed at the beginning of their net book lease. Cyber-safety and online etiquette are important skills that students need to be mindful of at all times when using social networking sites.

 Some teachers are using Facebook with senior students to model appropriate behaviour and the school has a Facebook page that has posts about school events, reminders and student achievements. We would like students to behave online as they would in a public place, and not post anything that they wouldn’t like to see on the front page of the Standard. To encourage students to think carefully about their online behaviour and the digital footprint that they leave, whenever they post online we are planning a competition for students from year 5 to 9 that will include creative writing, multimedia production, music and artwork. 

“What my Digital Footprint says about me” is the theme for the competition, which has the following categories for each age group (Year 5&6; Year 7&8 and Year 9&10):

  •  Writing (short story, poetry or essay up to 1,000 words that demonstrates an understanding of appropriate online behaviour)
  • Music (write song lyrics or a rap) about the effects of inappropriate use of online social networking.
  • Graphic Design and Art (Create an A3 advertisement that encourages appropriate online behaviour)
  • Multimedia (Video, Photo-story or animation up to 3 minutes that shows the consequences of inappropriate online behaviour)

 Prizes include iTunes gift vouchers and iPod accessories donated by “IT Made Simple”. Look out for more information at the beginning of next semester.