Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

More than 580 students in regional and rural Tasmania have reaped the rewards of a $5,000 grant received by the Woodbridge School and Marine Discovery Centre (MDC).

Woodbridge School & Marine Discovery Centre began operations in 1979 as a federally funded marine education facility.  Its mission is to challenge students of all ages to learn, discover and care for the marine environment through diverse sea and shore based programs.  Since 1997, it has been managed as part of Woodbridge School. All programs focus on practical, hands on experience which are linked directly to the curriculum. The organisation employs teaching staff (through Woodbridge School), a Ship Master, Education Facility Attendant and Admin Assistant. 

Throughout the period February to September 2015, MDC teacher Andrew Walsh travelled more than 2100 km taking the roadshow to five primary schools and one secondary school, enabling 583 students to engage in hands-on marine science activities that are linked to the Australian Science Curriculum.The MDC was wanting to upgrade and expand the outreach of their travel program. They contacted a number of rural Tasmanian schools who had not participated either in the travel program or visited the centre before, to gauge their interest in having the MDC marine discovery incursion at those schools, and the response was positive. The REAPing Rewards grant, funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, covered travel expenses of the MDC’s teacher, the purchase of resources such as ice boxes and aerators to safely transport live touch tank animals, and a flat screen display to support the classroom presentation. The funds were also used to maintain the (sometimes leaky!) purpose-built touch tank constructed by MDC for travelling that contains a circulating filter pump and chiller.

MDC’s travelling roadshow a success

For each school visit, a day of packing at the MDC beforehand, and day of unpacking afterwards was required, in addition to the days of teaching at the school. Each class in the schools were given a block of time, around 1.5 hours, to spend in the MDC travel classroom. Activities included studying external invertebrate features and marine food webs, classifying animals, understanding marine pollution, and associated art activities. 

The project was definitely a success in terms of demonstrating to, and impressing, the teachers as to the value of the program, as well as engaging many students who may not have had opportunities to have practical, hands on experiences to learn about marine ecosystems.

Principal of South Arm Primary School, Christine Farnell, said that it was a fantastic experience for their students, who especially loved examining the plankton under the microscopes and exploring the touch tank. 

“Due to our distance from Woodbridge we are unable to make use of the Marine Discovery Centre, as the cost of buses and time for travelling impact us enormously, so without you and the FRRR grant this is an experience that our students would have missed. Thank you very much for your time and effort.”