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The theme of National Science Week this year is 'Destination Moon'. And to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Wenona has enjoyed talks from a space lawyer, a former NASA scientist and a world leading expert on stars.
To celebrate Science Week, the Science Department put together a calendar of interesting talks, experiments and competitions to keep our students engaged with science and technology in a fun and engaging way. For students, it was an opportunity to take chances, make mistakes, and have lots of fun while learning more about how the world and galaxy around us really works.
As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing and recalls those first televised images of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon’s surface, our students were tasked with creating their very own mission patch. It’s a little known fact that every expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) has their own unique patch, featuring the crew’s names and visual elements that represent their mission. Thinking ahead to the 2024 Artemis mission, which is the next time we intend to send people to the Moon, students were asked to think how they would design their patch if they were heading into space. They had to think about why their journey was taking place and design a patch to represent their mission.
Another Science Week initiative was the Butterfly Project, which was driven by Year 10 Science students’ study of evolution through natural selection. Each student designed a paper butterfly, which they hid in various places around the School for Year 7 to 9 students to find. The idea was to see how long the butterflies would last before being ‘eaten’ by birds (students). Some were pretty easy to spot. Others were very well hidden and our ‘birds’ had great fun trying to find them.
On Tuesday, Annie Handmer, a bona fide space lawyer came to speak to Year 8 Science students about the legalities of boldly going where no man – or woman – has ever gone before. So what do space lawyers actually do? A graduate research student at the University of Sydney, Annie specialises in researching the intersections between science and international law, particularly in internationally governed spaces. During the space race for example, space lawyers had to establish whether planting an American flag on the Moon amounted to claiming it as US territory. They decided that it didn't, but space law focuses on the body of laws, agreements and treaties that govern outer space, looking at issues such as space exploration, rescue efforts for astronauts in distress and environmental regulations.
Assistant Professor Mark Cowley, a bioinformatician from the Children’s Cancer Institute came to talk to our Year 10 students about how our DNA impacts our health and how technology is changing rapidly to improve health outcomes.
And Astronomer Professor Tim Bedding from the School of Physics at The University of Sydney (who also happens to be a world leader in asteroseismology – the study of stellar oscillations) spoke to Year 9 about the wonder of stars for studying the physics of matter.
On Thursday, the Science Department hosted a Science Week trivia quiz, with students competing against the teachers. Teams were mixed between faculties to even out the brain power. Questions ranged from easy to difficult. There was of course, a Space-related question to keep in with the theme of Science Week. In 1971, astronaut Commander David Scott was standing on the Moon and dropped a hammer and a feather at the same time. Which object hit the surface of the Moon first? The hammer? The Feather? Or they both hit the surface of the Moon at the same time? The answer - of course - is at the same time because the Moon’s gravity accelerated the objects at the same rate! The quiz was hotly contested, but the two teachers’ teams battled it out for top spot, with Mr Gove, Ms Davis and Ms Jackson VERY happy to beat Ms Horsham, Ms Fleiser and Ms Quinn by one point!
On Friday, Ms Quinn’s Year 7 students did some pretty cool experiments on electrostatic force and had great fun in the process.
And internationally trained biochemist and Wenona parent, Mrs Jacqui Cavaglia popped into Hooke House to speak to Year 5 about her experience of working as a scientist for NASA for 20 years, supporting space missions. This included trips on the aptly named 'Vomit Comet'. Jacqui spoke to the students about the construction of the International Space Station. They were fascinated to learn that it is the size of a football field and was assembled piece by piece in space as there isn't a rocket big enough or powerful enough to take it up into orbit in its entirety. They were also interested to learn some interesting facts about life in space. For example, astronauts must learn to speak Russian and English. They must do two hours of exercise each day in order to prevent bone and muscle loss. And they eat tortillas in space rather than bread because floating breadcrumbs can damage equipment or be accidentally inhaled by astronauts!
All in all, a great week. Thank you to all our guest speakers, our Science Department and students!