MAFFRA Secondary College launched its Year 8 Broadening Horizons project on Wednesday.
The Broadening Horizons project aims to raise the students’ aspirations by giving them an opportunity to work alongside mentors on real world research tasks and present their work to the local community.
Program mentors from Regional Development Victoria, Wellington Shire Council and the Department of Health and Human Services attended the launch.
Maffra Secondary College science leader Kylie Lambert said the school had also recruited representatives from the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning to be mentors, who were unable to attend on the day.
“We’ve got some citizen members as well, so people who are involved with the school who donate their time,” Ms Lambert said.
Wellington Shire Council made a presentation and students from last year’s program spoke to current Year 8 students about their experiences.
Year 9 student Merrick Stanioch participated in the program last year and said it was a “great opportunity”.
“I knew I wanted to do something in science but I wasn’t really sure what is was exactly,” Merrick said.
“Now I’ve got a much better idea of what I want to do in my future.”
Merrick said the program provided insight into the variety of science jobs available, and how to tailor his school curriculum to meet job and further study requirements.
“I think in year 11 and 12, at that stage you sort of have to know what you want to do with your VCE or VCAL classes, or TAFE…so you have to have an idea what you want to do,” he said.
“So if you develop that idea earlier on you can elaborate on it and get finer details later on.”
Ms Lambert said the project enabled students to make decisions earlier about possible career paths.
“There’s education research that has been collected that says students have made their decision by year 10 about what area they want to go into,” she said.
“So traditionally we started our careers at year 10, but it’s too late.”
Students will begin working on their group projects at the start of term three.
They will come up with a problem or pose a question for which they have to investigate and then report on.
“It can be science based or it can be community based,” Ms Lambert said.
“For example, Wellington Shire are really interested to know what our community would be like if they had a viral emergency, for example Ebola or MERS.
“They want to know, how would we cope, and I mean that’s a big question to ask a group of 13 and 14 year olds, but they can collect data, they can go to businesses and ask, ‘what would be your strategy?’
“So they are collecting data and then they are going to report on it.
“There’s also more scientific based studies, so for example one of our project partners RDV work with lots of farmers in the area that look at veggie growing.
“They want to know if we can do some research on the best storage of their vegetables.”
Ms Lambert said the program endeavoured to reach a number of goals, including teaching students about team work and improving their 21st century employability skills.
Ms Lambert said the mentors were there to coach the students and help them develop important skills.
“A lot of these students have never worked in big groups on real life projects before,” she said.
“So they need help, they need to be supported.”
The school is also determined to get parents involved in the students’ projects.
“We also want to increase parental engagement in our school, so we’re calling every parent of every Year 8 student up and we’re asking them to be part of the project,” Ms Lambert said.
“During school hours they’re invited to come in, to work with their student outside of school hours.”
After six weeks of investigation, students will present their final pieces at the school’s Maffra Science Expo on August 20.