Australia's Leading Nanotechnology Education Centre Opens at St Helena

On Friday 18 May 2007, The Honourable John Lenders MLC, Victorian Minister for Education, launched the St Helena Innovative Nanotechnology Education program (“SHINE”) in the Science & Information Technology Centre, St Helena Secondary College, Wallowa Road, Eltham North.

The SHINE program is Australia’s first major nanotechnology course for secondary schools, and one of the first in the world.  It will be implemented in schools across Victoria, and made available to schools in Australia and New Zealand, over coming years.  The Minister launched a SHINE package consisting of curricula, extension programs in art, the NanoVic nanotechnology laboratory, and the dedicated SHINE website.

Nanotechnology Victoria has played a major role in the design and implementation of SHINE, working to support the St Helena initiative with funding, physical and intellectual resources, and guidance.  As part of a unique partnership between the private sector and educational institutions, NanoVic has participated in an initiative which will ultimately establish Australia in the top rank of nanotechnology nations.

St Helena Secondary College is widely recognized for its science and technology curriculum.   After contact with NanoVic at a STAVCON presentation in 2005, a team of St Helena Science teachers formed to explore the idea of teaching nanotechnology in the secondary chemistry curriculum.  In 2005, the team – Francesca Calati, Christine Willocks, Juha Ruuska, Hong Tay, Huwi Ling Mak, Jenny Russell and Amanda Clarke - successfully applied for a Teacher Professional Leave (TPL) Grant from the Victorian State Department of Education and Training (Northern Region) to develop a specific nanoscience and nanotechnology program.  The team developed the curriculum through 2006, and have commenced teaching it this year.

The course structure is unique in that it is driven by the applications of nanotechnology, rather than sessions grouped around experiments. Students are currently studying Nanotechnology in a Year 10 elective and a Year 11 Chemistry module on gold which contains experiments developed by St Helena students.  The program is engaging and thought provoking.  It uses a range of teaching materials such as PowerPoint presentations, ‘what if’ questions, animations, videos, activity sheets and practical experiments.  The multi-disciplinary approach and array of applications, such as smart materials, medicine, cosmetics and consumer products, are designed to have appeal for a variety of students at different skill levels.  The nanotechnology modules at St Helena go beyond typical science investigations to include extensions into the social impact and expression through art.

In 2007, implementation of the project commenced.  Amanda Clarke and Francesca Calati collaborating with Bridge8 received funding from the Victorian Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development to create a web-based e-learning package called SHINE that teachers across Victoria will be able to access.  This outcome is timely, as the VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) Curriculum has recently included a section on nanotechnology for Year 11 Chemistry. Science teachers are looking for interesting and simple ways of introducing nanotechnology to the classroom; over 200 signed up for further information when St Helena presented at the last STAVCON conference.

To support the current curriculum at St Helena, Nanotechnology Victoria have funded the set up of a nanotechnology teaching laboratory at the school, providing $15,000 towards equipment, displays, and consumables.  The Nanotechnology Laboratory was opened by the Minister on 18 May.

The St Helena team has been recognized for their efforts in several ways.  On Friday May 11th, Francesca Calati and Dr Amanda Clarke were announced as the winners of the Victorian Education Excellence Awards in Curriculum Innovation.  This Award of $20,000 which will go towards funding a Teacher Professional Development program in nanotechnology.  The Director of Bridge8, Dr Kristin Alford, has also been invited to present on the SHINE innovation at the leading US nanotechnology conference in Santa Clara in California on May 24th.

For more information, please contact Francesca Calati or Judy Vizzari at St Helena Secondary College:
Ph: +61 3 9438 8500
Fax: +61 3 9438 8555

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