Science a perfect challenge



Science stars: Brianna Hedges and Varsha Jojo are Science Challenge gold awardees.

Our Lady of Mercy College Burraneer students have taken an interest in Science to a new level with the Education Perfect 2015 Science Challenge.

Students at the Year 7 to 10 college answered more than 125,000 questions in the first four days of the challenge to be sixth of 153 participating schools from countries including Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. They placed second in the world within the first 24 hours of the competition. They are first in their division on the competition leader board, on which they are also ranked against Catholic schools in Sydney’s southern region including Aquinas Catholic College Menai and Mount St Joseph Milperra.

The challenge was launched on August 17 to coincide with National Science Week. Students answer questions across fields including Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Earth and Environmental Science.

Science coordinator Katrina Harte said one of the best features of the competition was that every question, from Year 7 content through to Year 12 HSC examples, was open to every student registered. This gives them a chance to extend their knowledge beyond what they study at their own grade level.

“The greatest thing about it is it’s not based on how smart they are,” Ms Harte said. “It’s accessible to every student and measured on how many questions they answer. If they are Year 7 girls and think their questions are too easy they can do any level above which is excellent. Some of the girls are just thriving because it’s very self-directed.”

Year 7 students Varsha Jojo and Brianna Hedges answered more than 3000 questions each in the first four days of the challenge to receive Gold Awards. Both have an interest in Chemistry and Biology. Varsha said persistence helped. “If you get a question wrong it’s good to keep on going and try to improve on your skills and ability of a topic,” she said. “A lot of the scientific names are hard to remember because in Year 7 you look at the simpler terms and later you look at the harder ones. I’ve been going around the sections to see what I can improve my knowledge on.”

The girls are just thriving because it’s very self-directed.

– Katrina Harte

Higher level questions were part of the appeal for Brianna too. “I’ve done a lot of questions on atoms and molecules which I had no knowledge of before I started the challenge with Education Perfect,” she said. “A lot of the [Year 10] DNA questions were difficult because I hadn’t covered that before, but now I’m understanding it a lot better. I’ve learnt so much. It’s been really good.”

Each question is worth a point. Prizes include laptops, iPods and a trip to NASA’s Space Camp in Alabama, USA. The students who took part at OLMC will celebrate the challenge’s end with a pizza lunch.

Ms Harte said the number of OLMC girls interested in studying Science at a senior level had more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. Science based challenges, guest speakers and workshops at universities and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) have played a role in this growth. “We started to bring in opportunities for them to witness what it is like to be a scientist in the real world,” she said. “In particular it was about trying to show them that women are in science and they are succeeding in science. There is a big misconception that girls aren’t as good as Science as boys are. With our partner school De La Salle Caringbah we started to introduce some common assessment tasks between the two schools so the boys and girls could see they were actually on par and able to do these things together.”

The Education Perfect 2015 Science Challenge ends on August 27.

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