Primary science should give each student the opportunity to discover for themselves the wonders of the natural world. That’s the principle that drives Alywn Powell in his role as a Year One teacher at Darling Heights State School in Toowoomba, Queensland.
Alwyn receives the 2004 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools for his leadership in advancing science education in his school and throughout the wider Toowoomba and Darling Downs areas. At the core of Alwyn’s teaching is a hands-on approach that gives the students time to learn for themselves. “There’s a danger in cramming more and more facts into a crowded curriculum,” he says. “Especially if students don’t have time to learn for themselves.”
“For example,” he says, “using computer simulations we can grow a plant from seed to seed in 30 minutes. But we sometimes need to slow down and give students time to learn for themselves that plants need sun and water, and to give them the sense of discovery that comes from planting, growing, harvesting and eating their own radishes.”
Alwyn’s hands on approach to primary science teaching spreads well beyond the bounds of his own classroom. Science Week 2004 saw him at the University of Southern Queensland, introducing groups of primary students to automation making their own automata and robot arms. He also participates in the Questacon Hands On, Minds On project, in Starlab and many other projects. And as a regional science coordinator – from 1995 to 1998 he guided the implementation of the new state science syllabus.
Alwyn shares his ideas on science teaching widely – supporting the professional development of science teachers both through his leadership roles in the Queensland Science Teachers’ Association, and through his contributions to conferences, journals and books.
Alwyn is passionate about the importance of science teaching – he says the greatest challenge for science teaching is to understand where we want to go in the 21st Century. “We need to move away from learning mountains of facts in science. We need instead to give students a deeper understanding of the key concepts that underpin science – and that has to start in primary school.”
“The community needs to have a say in where science is taking them, so we need to give young people the science literacy that will help them make informed decisions throughout their lives.”
Alwyn has a deep appreciation of the important role of parents in encouraging their children to engage in science. So he holds parent/student/teacher nights to involve them. “The response has been fantastic,” Alwyn says. “Parents are always interested, always positive about what is happening at their child’s school.”
He says his future lies in the class room, “My greatest satisfaction comes from the class room – it’s the fun aspect – I love science and my students love it too.”
* 1955 Born in Bristol, England
* 1973-1976 Royal Australian Navy specialising in Aircraft Electronics
* 1980 Diploma of Teaching Primary, Certificate in Early Childhood Education
* 1986 Bachelor of Education
* 1985-1994 Principal, Education Queensland
* 1995-1998 Key Learning Area Regional Coordinator – Science, Darling Downs Region
* 1996 Graduate Diploma of Educational Administration
* 1998-1999 Curriculum Writer, Science Curriculum Writing team, Queensland Schools’ Curriculum Council
* 2000-2002 Teacher, Coordinator of Intermediate School, Darling Heights State School
* 2002 Master of Education
Currently Year 1 teacher, Darling Heights State School
* BHP Science Teachers awards
* Army Administration Prize
* 2004 President of Queensland Science Teachers Association
* 2003/2004 Member of Minister’s Taskforce on Science
* Published work in Helix Magazine; and book Hot Air Balloons, Dare to be Different; as well as science workshop
* 2002 Secretary, Science Teachers Association
* 2002 Science Awareness Project, State Coordinator
* 2002-2004 Treasurer, Queensland Technology Univeristy, Darling Downs branch
* Commissioned Army Reserve Officer
* 2004 Silver Medal for blood donation
Alwyn has had a long-standing involvement with the Science Teachers’ Association, Queensland, holding various prominent and organisational positions and has also made numerous contributions to other areas of science teaching.
His reviews have been printed in the Queensland Science Teacher’s Journal, he has published a science book, created science workshop manuals for children and had work published in CSIRO’s Helix magazine.
He has presented at numerous occasions, including the 2004 Toowoomba Science Forum; Girls in Science and Maths summer schools; University of Southern Queensland Conference; Science Teachers Association of Queensland; Primary Science Teachers Conference; and Conference for Australian Science Teachers Association.
And, if that wasn’t enough, Alwyn has also been a trainer for the Australian Academy of Science, Primary Investigations Project; Questacon, Hands on Minds on; Australian Teachers’ Science Association professional development project; and Starlab.