Gibson sees his role as a facilitator and an active participant in a learning process that encourages students to think freely, and make evidence-based decisions.
“We choose to focus on the relationships we have with our students, trying to get an understanding of what it is that they’re interested in, and then trying to use that information to help facilitate science investigations that they may be likely to follow through with and have some ownership of and some engagement with,” he says.
Gibson’s Western Australian school has a range of superb projects, including a “pedal prix” where students build recumbent tricycles for an endurance event, while a Cows Create Careers program sees students care for calves and monitor their health and growth rates, as well as look at the dairy industry, artificial insemination and food production.
“It really gives the kids a chance to get out of the classroom and do some learning that maybe they didn’t think was science in the first place and have some fun with it as well,” he says.
Gibson uses an organic garden to teach crop rotation, soil science and sustainability, while an aquaponics area rotates different projects, including the growing and harvesting of the school’s own rainbow trout population.
Gibson believes it’s obligatory that his students appreciate the special uniqueness of their area. Indeed this extends to another project dear to his heart – a Year 8 camp he’s put together with a good friend, who’s also a local tour company operator.
“We’ve got a program ... that we see as a really strong model for getting students out there into the environment, getting them in our neck of the woods down here, to appreciate the fact that we are in a biodiversity hot spot.”
As part of his prize, Gibson will travel with five students to the US for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.
“Really, my aim for the trip is to be there as someone who’s going to help the students to share their ideas and make their thinking visible,” he says.
“I’m going to be their conduit for the conversations that they might have with people like university academics and industry professionals, with people from organisations like Google, Apple and Intel.”