Domremy College Girls Teaching Science to Primary Students

Article by Dr Simon Crook
CrookED Science / 04 May 2018

As a K-12 STEM education consultant, I enjoy a lot of variety in my work. However, the highlight every year for me is witnessing high school students helping primary students with their science. Such an event happened recently when Domremy College, Five Dock hosted St Ambrose Primary School, Concord West.

For the past couple of years, St Ambrose has been running a gifted science program for Year 4-6 children (part of Sydney Catholic Schools’ ‘Newman’ program). Conceived by Principal Linda McFadden and Science Coordinator Annie McKeating in conjunction with myself, the gifted science students undertake a program of STEM activities and collaborative critical thinking; solving real world problems through a design thinking process. This year, we thought we should capitalise on the strong relationship between St Ambrose and Domremy and take up Domremy’s open offer to use their excellent new science facilities.

Previously, Domremy has been very generous in loaning several pieces of equipment for me to use at St Ambrose, including a Van de Graaff generator. Matt Counai, Science Coordinator at Domremy, is a fellow physicist and a good mate who in fact succeeded me several years ago at OLSH College, Kensington (it’s all about relationships).

After contacting Domremy, Matt, Annie and myself put our heads together to develop a day long program for the St Ambrose gifted science students at Domremy. We decided upon a triumvirate of chemistry, physics and biology activities. After a tour of the stunning new science laboratories at Domremy, the primary students learned how to light a Bunsen Burner and evaporate water to reclaim salt crystals from salt solution, earning their very own Domremy Bunsen Burner Licence in the process!

Next, the students created series and parallel electric circuits using Domremy’s power packs, bulbs, switches, motors, bells and wires. The Year 4-6 students flourished at what were essentially Year 11 experiments.

The final event was the highlight of the day. Rebecca Morrice, Biology teacher at Domremy, demonstrated what happened when yeast was added to a mixture of warm water and sugar (a balloon inflated with carbon dioxide). The St Ambrose students were then invited to place drops of water/sugar/yeast mixture on a glass slide and add a cover slip to make a microscope slide to observe. At this point, the Domremy Year 11 Biology class took over. The Year 11 girls showed the primary students how to operate a microscope, place a slide in the housing, focus a lens and observe the moving yeast cells. Watching and listening from the sidelines was wonderful to behold. The Domremy girls patiently explained the biology they had learned and imparted it onto the St Ambrose students. The girls’ personalities really shone; the younger students hung on to every word of the older girls and the Domremy girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy this instructive interaction from a strong knowledge base. Just as we have all experienced through our own teaching, I am convinced that by teaching the younger students, the Domremy girls reinforced their own knowledge and understanding. One hopes that some of these natural teachers will embrace the vocation in the future. Whichever path they take in their tertiary studies and beyond, these young women should be highly successful given the inter-relational skills they demonstrated with the gifted science students from St Ambrose on what was a truly enjoyable and worthwhile day.

Many thanks to Vivienne Awad (Principal), Matt Couani and Rebecca Morrice from Domremy and Linda McFadden, Annie McKeating and Romina De Grazia from St Ambrose for making the collaboration possible.