Nurturing curiosity: 2008 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

Bronwyn_2008Bronwyn Mart

Bronwyn Mart believes that science should have a central role in the primary school curriculum.

“Children are born curious about the world around them. We need to nurture and harness that curiosity from the early years of school. That’s why science matters in primary school. Taught well, it engages students and can act as a vehicle for literacy, numeracy and critical thinking,” she says. “Primary science lays the foundations for scientifically literate children who are able to grow into secondary school science and are more likely to make career choices that embrace science.”

Bronwyn has brought her passion for primary science not just to the five hundred students of Magill Primary School in Adelaide, but also to the wider primary teaching community in South Australia.

For her commitment to primary science, Bronwyn Mart receives the 2008 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.

Bronwyn Mart became a teacher 35 years ago because it was “regarded as an appropriate career for a young woman.” But from the beginning she took a different approach to most of her peers. She realised that the passion for science that her parents nurtured had a place in primary education, and throughout her career she has brought science to the fore.

“Primary students love science,” she says. “But many primary school teachers are not confident with science teaching. For many, science hasn’t been a positive experience in their own education. It’s not a compulsory part of all teacher training and opportunities for professional development in science have been limited for primary teachers.”

If teachers lack the confidence to teach science then it slips from the curriculum as the classroom teacher covers every subject. Bronwyn is changing that, both at her school and through her support of her peers in primary schools across South Australia.

For the past three years Bronwyn has been teaching at Magill Primary School in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs. She is a science specialist and a classroom teacher for a Year 7 class. In the course of a fortnight she directly teaches science to over 500 students. She recently qualified as an advanced skills teacher level 2.

In her classroom her students are very hands-on. When studying the properties of energy and friction, for example, they might use their own shoes. They are encouraged to look, explore, and then plan and implement experiments.

Bronwyn has found that student engagement increases when pupils are given the opportunity to negotiate their learning content.

“We were working on ‘Our Dry Continent’, the theme for 2006 National Science Week, and the students became really interested in desert animals. So we structured their learning around their path of curiosity. We focused on animal features and adaptations but were then able to link these through to simple science concepts. For example, the drinking adaptations of the thorny devil led to an investigation into the porosity of materials. We increased the students’ interest and covered other aspects of the science curriculum,” she explains.

“One of the challenges for primary school science is to give primary school teachers the tools and confidence to work flexibly in the classroom,” Bronwyn says. She believes that Primary Connections is an important part of the solution. It’s a Commonwealth government and Academy of Science initiative to link science and literacy teaching.

Bronwyn was one of the initial facilitators selected for Primary Connections and she has played a major role in its implementation in South Australia: working on a professional learning program and seeking grants to enable four series of workshops for teachers in Adelaide. As a member of the state reference group she is sharing her deep knowledge and experience with others.

But that’s not her only extra-curricular effort. Bronwyn is a councillor of the Australian Science Teachers Association and president of the South Australian Science Teachers Association. She has led a series of initiatives to help reduce the barriers that inhibit primary school teachers from bringing more science into the classroom. Bronwyn has also won many grants and awards. But she considers her work won’t be complete until every South Australian primary school teacher feels empowered to incorporate science in their teaching, including in pre-schools.


2007 Advanced Skills Teacher Level 2

1997 Advanced Skills Teacher Level 1

1997 Graduate Certificate in Education (Professional Practice)

1977 Advanced Diploma in Teaching (Field science)


2006-present Science specialist and tandem classroom teacher for Years 4 and 6/7 classes, Magill Primary School, SA

2002-2005 Classroom teacher, Year 4, and (in 2005) Specialist science teacher for all Year 4 students, Highgate Primary School, SA

2001 Science specialist teacher, Reception – 7, Ardtornish Primary School, SA

2000 Year 5/6 classroom teacher, Echunga Primary School, SA

1999 Year 2/3 classroom teacher, Mylor Primary School, SA

1988-1998 Various multi level classes including specialist science teacher, Basket Range Primary School, SA

1976-1985 A range of metropolitan schools in Adelaide before two years of accouchement leave.


2007 South Australian Science Teachers Outstanding Teacher Award (Primary)

2007 Action Learning Project Grant, Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) SciMaths strategy. Project: numeracy and working scientifically using data loggers

2006 South Australia Science Teachers Association Medal

2006 Action Learning Project Grant, DECS SciMaths strategy. Project: student engagement and numeracy within working scientifically

2006 Premier’s Industry Award

2005 CSIRO Experience

2004 Premier’s Westfield Science Scholarship to provide primary science professional learning in rural and remote South Australia

Memberships and appointments

Councillor, Australian Science Teachers Association

President, South Australian Science Teachers Association

Member, South Australian Science Teachers Association