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Posted by SASTA

on 14/02/2023

For some time, SASTA has been wanting to create and deliver teacher professional development designed to give context and build relevance that science teachers already implement in the classroom. Together with Wine Australia, we have developed an exciting program to encapsulate science learning capabilities such as soil science, plant life cycles and Science as a Human Endeavour (SHE), genetics and food chemistry.

Wine Australia supports a competitive wine sector by investing in research, development, and extension (RD&A), growing domestic and international markets, protecting the reputation of Australian wine, and administering the Export and Regional Wine Support Package. Wine Australia helps foster and encourage profitable, resilient, and sustainable Australian grape and wine businesses by investing in research and development (R&D), building markets, disseminating market information and knowledge, encouraging adoption, and ensuring compliance through our regulatory functions. By partnering with Wine Australia, SASTA has been able to develop this exciting program for teachers, for both primary and secondary levels.

SASTA Members can find the resources created for this program in the Members Area on the SASTA website. 

Our goal was to develop content for teachers that creates a new interface between science literacy and real-life application. Providing context in learning environments outside of the classroom allows for teachers to gain an enriching experience that can enhance their lesson planning and creatively allow for career focussed links or regionally specific topics

In May 2022, we ran the first of our Wine Australia collaborative teacher professional development workshops at the Waite campus, Urrbrae. Teachers from both primary and secondary schools joined us on a fantastic day and we thought we’d share the experience with you.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Waite campus, it is predominately a University of Adelaide space for the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. Co-located are partners such as CSIRO, SARDI, PIRSA and the Australia Wine Research Institute (AWRI). There are excellent opportunities to bring your class to Waite for free excursions, including the Historic Urrbrae House tours. There’s even a free app to guide you as you walk through the gorgeous Waite Arboretum.

Hosting our program at the Waite campus meant we could include incredible tours with winemaker Jill Bauer at the Hickinbotham Roseworthy Wine Science Laboratory and were graciously taken through the microbiology labs by University of Adelaide’s Professor Vladimir Jiranek.

We also had robust discussions with Dr James Cowley about plant cell walls in food dietary fibre; vineyard ecology with PhD candidate Joseph Marks and vineyard agriculture with Richard Leask of Leask Agri and Hither and Yon winery.

Our teaching standards covered in the program include helping teachers deliver content relating to Science Inquiry, Science Understanding and Science as a Human Endeavour, using grape and wine research as a contextual platform as foundation to the discussion. For example, we discussed the basics of soil vs dirt and how phrasing the definitions can help students understand the regenerative and sustainability concepts of composting and ecosystem microbiomes.

We chose to partner with Wine Australia because we know how important the grape and wine industry is to science (and visa versa) and also to the State. The Australian wine sector is a major primary industry contributing $45.5 billion in gross output to the Australian economy and supporting 163,790 direct and indirect full and part-time jobs, most of which are in regional Australia, with a significant percentage STEM related. It is important to demonstrate career pathways in this important industry to youth at a critical stage of their career decision making. But what about the younger school students? How is this relevant? Students need to learn about plant life cycles and soil health through most year levels. Using vineyards as context, or grapes as the plant type allows students to see a link to the science and the real world that might not be recognised. Linking the importance of soil health to a billion dollar industry shows value. Value in the soil, and value in the students’ future in varied STEM careers.

Thanks to all our amazing contributors at the Waite campus and to Wine Australia for commissioning this amazing program so that the teachers of South Australia (and Australia) benefit, building stronger teaching experiences in the classroom.

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