Kirwan State High School
Zoe Hiddins is equipping her high school Science students with the passion, knowledge, and experience to become Australia’s leading environmental scientists of the future.
The Kirwan State High School teacher has facilitated student collaboration with both their local and their global communities, increasing student engagement with the study of science by prompting them to create real-world solutions to real-world problems.
“I’m trying to develop them as agents of change. They’re about to go into the big, wide world and be citizens, so let’s make them proactive citizens who can make valuable contributions to the community,” Zoe said.
Zoe’s students initiated a community discussion panel exploring the environmental impacts associated with a proposed local development. They worked alongside professional environmental scientists to collect real scientific data about the project.
The students then held a meeting with numerous stakeholder groups, including environmental engineers, residents, conservation groups, and scientists, allowing them the opportunity to present their findings to the community.
“Zoe’s pedagogy is innovative and inspires her students. With a strong dedication to environmental education and action, Zoe instigates a belief within her students that they themselves are agents of change,” Deputy Principal Steve Baskerville said.
“Engaging as real-world scientists involved in real-world problems has invigorated her students, and she has inspired many of them to pursue tertiary study in related disciplines,” Mr Baskerville said.
Beyond the local community, Zoe has also fostered partnerships between her students and CoralWatch in collaboration with the University of Queensland and the Freshwater Turtle Longitudinal Population Study and Green Sea Turtle Population Study in collaboration with James Cook University.
Together with professional scientists from these organisations, Zoe’s students have collected data on coral bleaching and ocean acidification in the Great Barrier Reef. Zoe then arranged for them to meet with people from their local community in a ‘Students-as-Experts’ role to educate residents about the threats facing the Reef.
“Seeing those students engage and develop their confidence, their leadership ability, and their ability to be independent learners ready to enter the big, wide world is probably the most rewarding thing about teaching,” Zoe said.
The incredible real-world opportunities Zoe is determined to provide to her students even extend beyond Australia. Later this year, her students will engage in an international sustainability tour she created called ‘Scientists Enacting Global Change – Indonesia Experience,’ where they will collaborate with Green School Bali and Bye Bye Plastic Bags Bali on more environmental science projects.
“If we can get these students to actually believe that they can make change happen, that they’re global citizens, and that they’re active citizens, then we can get them to make really valuable contributions. That can start now – we don’t need to wait until they’re adults – we can get it happening right away,” Zoe said.
Despite her impressive achievements to date, Zoe is still working to improve her skillset as a teacher. She is currently pursuing doctoral study in how scaffolding practices influence student engagement and persistence in science, which will make a valuable contribution to her community of teachers.
Zoe recently won the 3MT (three minute thesis) competition at the 2017 Central Queensland University School of Education and the Arts symposium, and was also awarded a 2017 QCT Teacher Research Grant to further her study.
Zoe has also made exemplary contributions to the state’s marine science curriculum, earning her formal recognition from former premier Anna Bligh for her authorship of the Coast and Marine Education syllabus.
Congratulations Zoe on your nomination.
By Claudia Farhart.