- Charles Sturt University PhD scholar receives the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools in the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
- Award recognises the revolutionary approach to teaching agricultural science in secondary schools
- The new teaching approach has tripled enrolments in recent years
PhD scholar at the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences Mr Scott Graham has received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools in the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
Mr Graham, who is also the Head of Agriculture at Barker College on Sydney’s North Shore, is changing the way agricultural science is taught at secondary schools through programs to engage students and emphasising the positive difference agriculture makes to society.
Under his leadership, student enrolments in agriculture have tripled over the past seven years.
Mr Graham is currently completing a PhD in Agricultural Education at Charles Sturt, which focuses on improving the reputation, enrolment numbers, and academic standing of the study of agriculture among urban secondary students throughout Australia.
His aim is to highlight how agricultural science can lead to diverse and unique careers across a range of both urban and rural industries.
Mr Graham’s commitment to improving agricultural education in high school stems from his belief that children in urban communities are disconnected from the ‘paddock-to-plate’ journey of their food.
His ambition is to reconnect students with the role that agriculture plays in many aspects of their lives.
“I’m deeply passionate about improving how we’re teaching agriculture. My PhD in Agricultural Education is looking at how we can change the image of the subject in Australian secondary schools,” Mr Graham said.
“To be recognised in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science acknowledges not only the importance of teaching and education but the integral role of agriculture for our nation.”
Mr Graham pointed to the importance of understanding the impact agriculture has on our everyday lives.
“Even if agricultural high school students don’t pursue a career in agriculture, they are still going to have at least four interactions with agriculture every day. This could be anything from the food they eat to the clothes they wear,” he said.
Mr Graham draws on 12 years of teaching experience to educate students about the significance of agriculture in Australia and the employment opportunities in this scientific and business-driven field.
“One of our strategies has been to develop a range of resources and teaching materials that make students think about how agriculture fits into the bigger picture. Whether it’s dealing with food security or climate change, we want students to be involved in making a difference,” he said.
Mr Graham’s PhD supervisor is Emeritus Professor in Agriculture at the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences and Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation Jim Pratley.
Professor Pratley said Mr Graham’s PhD will present a national viewpoint on the agricultural education system in Australia, evaluating the current system and identifying the pillars of success of the new model he has implemented at Barker College, for others to apply.
“Scott’s performance is well recognised in the education system,” Professor Pratley said.
“His passion for agriculture, agricultural science and technology and engagement with students and parents has helped students to achieve their best, including taking advantage of the many opportunities provided by a university education in agriculture.”
At a national level, the subject of high school agriculture has suffered a decline in student numbers, leading to a significant shortage of university agriculture graduates. This contrasts starkly with the high availability of modern agricultural jobs, which require knowledge-based, post-school qualifications.
Since Mr Graham has been the Head Teacher of Agriculture at Barker College, the school has provided more than double the number of Year 12 agriculture students completing the HSC than any other school in Australia. Around 30 per cent of these students have since gone on to pursue agriculture-related degrees at the university level.
Mr Graham’s award comes in the wake of the University’s announcements that it is establishing an Agriculture, Water and Environment Institute for research, and that researchers from Charles Sturt will lead the $3.6 million Next Generation Water Engineering and River Management Hub.
These projects are the latest in almost $40 million realised this year for research and partnerships in AWE which Charles Sturt leads or is involved in, including:
- The Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga
- The planned expansion of the AgriSciences Research and Business Park (AgriPark)
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