Maritime science education

The Australian National Maritime Museum is collaborating with selected Blue Mountains schools to host aspiring young science communicators in a pilot STEAM peer mentoring program. In May 2019, Stage 5 students from Winmalee High School had a chance to discover its STEAM programs including a rare opportunity to drive ROVs around the Harbour and visit a few ships!

The two- day program centred on Investigative Science and Task Based Learning, encompassing both the museum’s permanent galleries and temporary exhibition spaces. These included: Life on a Tall Ship – an immersive experience on board the James Craig, All Aboard –  a critical thinking workshop developed in collaboration with Australian Maritime Safety Authority focused on safety at sea, curator and an educator-led Museum Highlights tour.

Other highlights included:

  • An opportunity to compare Megalodon fossilised teeth with Great White Shark jaws, hammerhead replica skulls and Port Jackson shark eggs as part of the On Sharks & Humanity Science program
  • A taste of London through the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition visiting from the Natural History Museum,  a Science and the Sea Sustainability Workshop covering buoyancy, gravity, density, corrosion, the Archimedes principle and navigation
  • A Junior Maritime Archaeology tour to get the investigative juices flowing, and
  • An Underwater Drone workshop piloting ROVs to discover what really lies below the surface in Pyrmont Bay.

About the STEAM education program

One of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s objectives is to share the national maritime story across Australia. All too often, maritime stories are contained within coastal communities, ignoring the links to water that exist from mountains to sea.

The aim of the Maritime Science program is to share and understand connections with our oceanic and riverine waterways, and to do this through a stepped program of peer mentoring—delivering learning programs to secondary students, who in turn rework the programs for targeted delivery to primary students, and from there, to the wider community.  

By empowering Year 9 &10 students to use their scientific knowledge explain the answer to questions such as, ‘What do sea turtles and submarines have in common?’ to primary school students, verbally and kinaesthetically through object handling the museum’s Education Collection, and cabinet of curiosities touch trolley, this peer mentoring Maritime Science program aims to activate and inspire the next generation to go full STEAM ahead. After all, as Boud said in his work Making the move to peer learning: “students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others” (Boud, 2001, p9).

Students were able to move from answering key questions such as ‘How do big metal ships like Vampire float? To using a floating candle to articulate why Titanic sank in terms of the difference in density between water and ice and even to correctly guess in decimal terms the density of oil given that oil floats on water.” Roy Butt, High School Science Teacher & Museum Educator, Sea Museum.

We very much enjoyed our visit. From the teacher perspective it was great to see the wonderful and innovative work the Australian National Maritime Museum has embarked on. From the student perspective it was great for this group of students to see the word through a multi-disciplinary lens. The students remarked that it was as if they had science, history and art class at the same time.” Kevin Joseph, Educator, Winmalee High School, Co-Coordinator, Science at the Local

On the horizon

The first stage of the program is now complete. The high schoolers are home and now furiously working on translating their experiences into programs for primary students.

Additional funding has been sought to support a public access day in the Blue Mountains so that the students can share their new knowledge with parents, friends and the public. If successful, it is hoped that the Maritime Science program can be further developed to engage with NSW Regional Science Hubs across the state.

Guest post by Chasna Harper, Education Officer, Australian National Maritime Museum. Photos by Kevin Joseph. Find out more the museum’s education programs and Maritime Science Mentoring program.