“Body at War” at Federation University, Ballarat


On Friday 17th April, four VCE Biology students attended the “Your Body at War” program, facilitated by the Gene Technology Access Centre at Federation University. Kiri, Leah, Che and Stephanie travelled to Ballarat to participate in the program, which celebrates the “Day of Immunology”.

Together with about 100 students from three other schools, they had the opportunity to hear from Associate Professor Robyn Slattery (Monash University) about the history of vaccination, current research in immunology and exciting new discoveries about immunotherapy in cancer treatment.

They then donned lab-coats and entered the science laboratories at Federation University, where they learned how to use specialist equipment and techniques, such as the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). They also had the opportunity to discuss career perspectives in science with staff and Dr Misty Jenkins from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

One of the sponsors of this event is the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Later this year we have three Year 11 students who have been very fortunate to obtain a work experience placement at WEHI in Melbourne. This is an exciting opportunity for them to find about authentic medical research, working with expert scientists in a world-leading facility.

Also in science news, students in Year 10 have the opportunity to attend the Science Experience Ballarat, at Federation University from 29th June to 1st July. This three day, hands-on program is a great introduction to the diverse world of science and it’s connection to a range of interesting careers. Please apply online prior to 8th June. Speak to Mrs Gow for further information.

Free Polycom Seminar – “The Plastic Brain”

As part of Education Week next week, we have the opportunity to link up with a special seminar to be held at the Gene Technology Access Centre in Melbourne. Associate Professor  Chris Reid from The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health will be presenting “The Plastic Brain” on Wednesday 21st May 2014, 6:30 pm. You can participate at school using our Polycom video-conferencing equipment. Dinner will be provided,  if there are enough people interested.

The brain is remarkable. Just how do we remember the colour of our first car, what we had for lunch yesterday or who our Prime Minister is? We don’t have all the answers but we have come a long way. In this lecture I will take you on a journey about how we think brain cells work. We will discuss how brain cells change when we learn, what we can do to learn better and what might be going wrong in disease. I’ll finish with exciting new ways we are looking into brain function that will tell us more about how this fascinating organ works.

 This talk is a special event during education week, and teachers and students (as well as the community) are especially encouraged to come along.  Chris Read is head of the synaptic plasticity lab at the Florey. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning. Can an adult retrain their brain after injury? Can we train our brains to improve our performance? What are the implications for medical research?

I hope you will consider this opportunity to listen to an expert in neuroscience and learn more about this fascinating organ that defines our personality, drives our body and determines our very survival. Please contact Britt Gow by email at brittgow(at)gmail.com or by phoning the school.

OzTrees 4 GYS Registration Form

OzTrees4GYS_logo copy

This form is for delegates from the 2014 “Actions For Earth Global Youth Summit” to enter their details to enable students from Hawkesdale P12 College to plant a tree on your behalf and then contact you with further details about the location and photographs of the trees planted.

Day 5: Conference excursions and Community Outreach

The world's only man-made off-shore landfill.

We woke up and had our breakfast at the hotel as usual then we got on the buses in our designated groups to head straight from the hotel to our first activities. Depending on what groups each of us were in we visited the Semakau Landfill, an Incineration Plant, Marina Barrage and/or the New Water Desalination Plant.

Semakau landfill

We jumped on the bus for a half an hour bus ride before swapping to a boat for another forty minutes. We when arrived at the landfill we split into groups with one group going straight on the bus to tour around the landfill while the other group went into a room to watch a presentation on how the landfill works. Then the groups swapped over. The Semakau Landfill is located about 8 kilometers south of Singapore, situated amongst the southern islands. Two of these small, shallow islands have been joined together by a membrane providing two halves to the whole system. The incineration plants provide the landfill with rubbish that has been turned into ash and placed in the cells in the first part of the system. The waste from the incineration plant is transported by a barge to the island and then loaded onto tip trucks which fill the cells. As each cell is required, the seawater is pumped out and the cell is filled with incinerated rubbish and compacted.

Tuas South Incineration Plant - turning waste into power

Tuas South Incineration Plant – turning waste into power

Tuas South Incineration Plant
The Tuas South Incineration Plant is a “Waste to Power” Plant, which means that the waste from domestic and municipal sources is transported to the Plant and used as fuel for boiler that is used to create steam and turn a turbine to produce electrical power. The electricity produced is seven times the amount actually used in the plant, while the rest of the power is fed back into the grid. The incineration plant is a very modern and technological solution to waste disposal, using close circuit video cameras to monitor the waste arriving in trucks and lots of automated systems. However, the waste is not separated, so plastics, paper, metal and biodegradable waste are all dumped into the incineration and burnt at temperatures up to 850 degrees Celsius. This ensures that the waste is sterilized to remove any diseases.

Marina Barrage

New Water Desalination Plant

Community Outreach Program at Clementine Apartments


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.

Our first day in Singapore!

Departure from Tullamarine, Melbourne

Departure from Tullamarine, Melbourne

Fresh off the plane, the Hawkesdale VCE Environmental Science students woke up this morning eager for their trip to Malaysia. The day begun with an Asian styled breakfast, giving the students an opportunity to explore a different cuisine. After breakfast everybody hoped on a bus and headed for the Tanjung Bin coal plant in Malaysia. After a long trip and the stops at customs, the students were keen to explore the coal plant.

Tanjung Bin Power Plant in Malaysia

Tanjung Bin Power Plant in Malaysia

When we arrived at the coal plant a big lunch was provided for everybody hosted by warm welcoming staff. The food was luscious and divine, and although many students hadn’t tasted Malaysian food, all enjoyed the lunch. For many the lunch was a highlight, as not only did it fill our stomach, it also gave us a taste Malaysian-styled food. All the staff were very generous and we can not thank them enough for their kindness and willingness to share their knowledge with us.

After lunch we were taken on a tour around the coal plant, getting a insight of how it runs. Before the tour everybody got geared up in helmets, vests, and protective footwear. This was a challenge in itself as many students struggled to find shoes that would fit and many were walking around as if they were in clown shoes. We saw first hand how the coal plant worked by walking around, and taking a bus tour. Along the tour we got to see the boilers and visit the port where the coal is imported. Taking photos at the port was difficult with many of us struggling to keep our eyes open while the photo is being taken.

Safety gear to be worn for a tour of the Power Plant

Safety gear to be worn for a tour of the Power Plant

Once the tour was ended, everybody hoped back on the bus and headed back to Singapore where we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the waters edge.

Please note this post was added by Anne Mirtschin for Britt Gow who experienced some problems adding the post overseas.