Attendees at Communicate to Inspire conference 2019. Photo by Pete Wheeler courtesy of Australian Science Communicators WA.

Pictured: Attendees at the 2019 Communicate to Inspire conference. Photo by Pete Wheeler courtesy of Australian Science Communicators - WA Branch. 

Blog by Cassie Howell 


I recently had the privilege of attending Communicate to Inspire 2019, an annual conference run by the Australian Science Communicators, bringing practitioners together to share and learn together.

Science communication is all about sharing scientific knowledge and research in a way that is easily accessible and understandable for everyone in the community. It combines the Science and Arts from ESTEAM (sometimes with some of the other parts of the acronym too), to engage society in sharing the curiosity. Here in the Peel region we are blessed with many exceptional science communicators, including those recognised in the Science Communicator of the Year category of our recent 2019 Peel ESTEAM Awards including Suzanne Jones, Sarah Curran Ragan and Merri Harris.

The keynote address was given by Trish McDonald, Project Director at the Western Australian Museum, giving us insight into the development of the new museum. The presentation was fascinating, and the new museum sounds incredible. The project is the intersection of culture and science, showcasing the rich history of our state while looking towards its bright future as well. There is a strong emphasis on recognising and celebrating our Indigenous cultures throughout the themes that will define the galleries and their exhibitions.

Following the keynote address, there was a short break and we were given the choice to attend either the practise stream workshop or the research stream presentations for the next session. While the research roundtable discussing the best science communication journals would have been interesting, I chose the practise stream in which Mike and Mandy Bamford were giving their talk “Environmentally Speaking: do what you love, and get paid... mostly”.

As environmental presenters and consultants at Bamford Consulting Ecologists, the Bamfords shared their passion for teaching others about the outdoors and their unexpected journey to become science communicators. As a Botany student with a passion for educating others about nature, I found the talk inspiring and insightful, as I would love to do similar work in the future. Some of their key messages that I found particularly interesting were to believe in what you are doing, be positive and to sometimes say yes to the ridiculous. They also talked about finding the balance between work that you always get paid for and work that allows you to have a positive impact, which I think is a significant issue that many people in face in fields such as this.

"Science communication is all about sharing scientific knowledge and research in a way that is easily accessible and understandable for everyone in the community."

After morning tea, I decided to take part in the research stream presentations. The first, presented by Muza Gondwe, was titled "Building an army of influencers – why and how to keep them mobilised". It focused on people participating in short course training programs and how to maintain meaningful engagement long after the program finishes. Two of the main points that I took away from Muza’s presentation were the importance of providing a platform for people to maintain a community and the importance of providing participants with the skills and opportunities to implement what they have learnt in the real world.

The second presentation in the session, presented by Miriam Sullivan, focused on Experimenting with Evaluation. This presentation highlighted some potential limitations with using traditional methods such as surveys to evaluate outcomes and presented alternative evaluation methods such as drawings and mind maps. Personally, I found this session to be one of the most thought provoking of the day, as I have never really considered using anything other than surveys for evaluation. I liked that we were able to experience the different methods first-hand, which was highly effective in demonstrating the different pros and cons of each.

Following an extended lunch break that featured some absolutely delicious sushi, among many other things, it was time for the afternoon session. I returned to the practise stream and attended Michelle Wheeler’s Media Skills workshop. This workshop explored how to communicate science to all different types of media. Michelle highlighted the importance of timing, relevance and what science communication means for different media. The workshop was very helpful, particularly the part about writing media releases and it made me glad that when writing these blogs I am not under the same time pressure that journalists are.

The final session kicked off with some speed networking, followed by a sundowner with more casual networking and a chance to follow up on some of the interesting conversations and connections made throughout the day.

Overall, it was a truly insightful and inspiring event. There were so many aspects of science communication that I had not even considered before. All of the presentations were very engaging and well presented, though that is not hugely surprising given it was a conference on science communication. It was also a wonderful networking event and I met some cool people doing really cool things. I would like to thank Peel Bright Minds for giving me the opportunity to attend and am looking forward to putting the things that I learned into practise in the future.

If you would like to explore science communication yourself, here are a few good places to start. Scitech produces Particle, a website and newsletter showcasing the latest science news in an engaging and insightful way. If you are looking for a something more audio-visual, check out Australia’s Science TV for compelling videos and podcasts on a range of fascinating topics. Plus, keep an eye on the Peel Bright Minds blog as we share our incredible local science and ESTEAM stories.

Posted on 28 Feb 2019 in Peel Bright Minds events / 124 Views
Pictured: Attendees exploring chemistry and biology through art with Helen Coleman. Photo by Jennie Beeson. 


Blog by Cassie Howell


Thursday the 21st of February saw the first Peel ESTEAM Champion Teachers’ Network Meeting of the year. The theme for this meeting was “Putting the Arts into STEAM”.

While the elements of the more basic acronym STEM are usually well-known (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), the additional letters in ESTEAM are sometimes a source of curiosity. The additional E stands for Entrepreneurship, which was addressed in last year’s teachers’ network meeting titled 'Integrating entrepreneurship in the classroom’. The A stands for Arts, which at first glance may seem distant from the other ESTEAM subjects, but the connection between them is a lot stronger than it might seem.

Arts education from an ESTEAM perspective is not just about learning to use colour charts and practical artistic skills like painting and drawing. It is about deliberately embedding creativity in the learning of other subjects (especially in STEM areas), thereby equipping students with the skills, knowledge and attitudes required in the future of work.

"...when science and art collide, the results can be as unexpected as they are beautiful"

The lady to enlighten everyone to the connection between science and the arts was Helen Coleman. Helen combines her background in chemistry and botany with a passion for art to show that beautiful things result when science and art combine. Having finished her two-year residency at CASM last year, Helen has recently started working out of her Dye Pot Studio in Falcon.

Helen turned our teachers into students, engaging them in an activity exploring the chemistry of dyes extracted from native plants in the local area. The ‘students’ used these dyes on various media and then were guided through using various chemicals to alter the pigments to produce different colours. These changes result from chemical reactions and changes in pH, illustrating that when science and art collide, the results can be as unexpected as they are beautiful.

During the session laughter abounded, though our excellent teachers did not necessarily make for well-disciplined students. The kind of clapping usually heard in primary school classrooms was often needed to regain attention when everyone was having just a little too much fun.

The practical section was followed by a presentation by Lee-Anne Walley and Steve Fisher on taking multi-disciplinary learning into the environment. They shared their experiences working collaboratively (between Greenfields Primary School, Mandjoogoordap Dreaming and the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council) to deliver a range of excursions that provided students with an immersion in science, art and culture in the Peel region. These experiences make learning real for students, resulting in highly effective learning outcomes that have long-lasting impacts for everyone involved.

These two presentations both addressed the same main point:

1.       Benefits of integrated learning – there are benefits for students’ learning through teaching in a way that highlights and explores connections and interactions between different curriculum areas.

2.       Learning is best with practical elements - whether in the classroom or out, making learning a real experience engages students and can result in strong learning outcomes.

Kellee Aberg, Youth Engagement Officer from Mandurah Performing Arts Centre shared information about their education offerings for schools, which include the opportunity to come out to schools for arts incursions. Anyone who would like information about this can contact Kellee. 

Thank you to Helen, Lee-Anne and Steve for their presentations and to all of the inspiring educators who attended.

For anyone who missed out, you can access the presentations here:

-          Peel Bright Minds presentation and video

-          Lee-Anne Walley’s presentation and Wetland Yarns handout from Peel-Harvey Catchment Council

The Term 2 Teachers’ Network Meeting will be focussed on “Making Maths Magnificent”. If you are interested in attending, the details can be found here.


About the author:

Cassie Howell is in her fourth year studying Botany at UWA. Cassie is passionate about trees, science and education (particularly education about the science of trees) and plays footy when not being involved in those three things. After volunteering with Peel Bright Minds during 2018, took on a formal role as PBM’s Communications and Events Intern in 2019 to organise the 2019 Peel ESTEAM Awards.