Project Leader, Organisation
Kerrie Rubie, Queensland Department Agriculture and Forestry
The DAF Hermitage Research Facility Schools Plant Science Competition (link) offers engaging ways for students to gain understanding and skills in key areas identified within the Australian Science Curriculum. Encouraging the next generation of people who will be involved in agriculture and rural industries as scientists, farmers, (and a range of roles in between) is crucial to how we will face the future and is a key purpose of the competition.
The competition is highly regarded amongst educationalists and attracts between 100-200 schools from across Australia annually and over its 22 year history has reached over 105,000 students (from years prep to twelve).
Objectives and impact
The aim of the competition is to stimulate an interest in science and agriculture in young people and to promote science and agriculture as an exciting and rewarding career.
This is achieved, not only by students participating in the hands-on experiments and activities, but also through extended programs and support offered including Queensland-wide student workshops, school visits by DAF staff and scientists, the Annual Awards Day & Ag Science Expo and a large range of prizes including scholarships to attend industry conferences and agricultural science camps.
In 2019, the competition is title ‘Pest Invaders’ and will focus on the impact invasive species have on our natural environment, with a focus on agriculture. Students will engage in a series of activities including an experimental investigation on either insects, weeds or plant diseases (to be presented in scientific format) into the impact invasive pests have on the native environment and Australian agriculture and also how pests impact on international agriculture, global food security and what measure are in pace to help eradicate and/or control the spread of exotic pests.
Participating students will develop skills in scientific method and will develop a broader understanding and interest in plant and animal biosecurity with the possibility of considering further studies and career in this field.
The 2019 ‘Pest Invaders’ competition was a huge success with 153 schools registered from across Australia and just over 3,600 students directly engaged in experiments and activities to help them discover the impact invasive pests have on the native environment and agricultural production, on both a national and international level.
As an extension of the competition, students were also engaged in ‘Invasive Pest’ Student Workshops held in Toowoomba and Rockhampton (facilitated by DAF/BQ staff), teachers were invited to a local Art + Science Workshop (at the Warwick Art Gallery – competition supporter) and all participants were invited to the annual Awards Day & Ag Science Expo held at the Hermitage Research Facility in August, during National Science Week, with TV personality “Ranger Stacey” attending as our keynote speaker.
Students were awarded prizes that involved immersing themselves in further science/education, including – tertiary education scholarships, scientific journal subscriptions, science camps and an industry conference (Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium, Brisbane).