Last night Geoff and Brian received their $50,000 prizes from the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott, at a dinner in the great hall of Parliament House, Canberra. The prize money is shared with their schools. 

Brian Schiller has integrated play, science and languages at Seacliff Primary School in Adelaide. He nurtures creativity in the classroom through student-initiated investigations, where the students bring the questions and Brian guides them in setting up investigations to get the answers. 

Canberra high school teacher Geoff McNamara has created a hothouse of science learning. From dinosaurs to galaxies, weather stations to genetics, his classes explore the impact of science in daily life.

“Both of these teachers step outside the norm with what they bring to science teaching,” says Robyn Aitken, president of the Australian Science Teachers Association. 

“They go above and beyond what many teachers do – their passion and enthusiasm for science is outstanding.”

Prime Minister’s Science Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

At Seacliff Primary School in Adelaide’s south, Brian Schiller’s students are describing states of matter, mixing of materials, and products of chemical reactions—in Japanese.

“Science can be a basis for teaching many different subjects, such as language, music, numeracy, reading and writing,” he says. “Students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them.

“Brian brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his teaching,” says Robyn Aitken, president of the Australian Science Teachers Association. 

“He manages to weave a rich tapestry of learning by merging science and Japanese, encouraging higher order thinking skills in his primary students.”

Prime Minister’s Science Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

At Melrose High School in Canberra, science teacher Geoff McNamara has created a hothouse of science learning—complete with a seismometer, GPS antenna, and weather station, each transmitting real-time data straight into the classroom. He also coordinates regular visits from practising scientists, and science field trips.

 “We all need science literacy to navigate the complexity of modern world,” he says. So he reaches out to each student’s interests—from genetics to driving to cosmology— to demonstrate the inevitable relevance of science.

“Geoff fosters connections between students and scientists to make science relevant,” says Robyn Aitken, president of the Australian Science Teachers Association.

“He uses real-science to engage the disengaged—his students want to spend time in his learning environment.”