Callum Hollingsworth, an outdoor education and VET maritime teacher at Rosny College, spent a week on board the marine research ship RV Investigator as it sailed from Brisbane to Hobart.
The initiative offers primary and secondary teachers the opportunity to participate in and observe a range of activities such as plankton sampling, ocean forecasting, sea bird tracking and ship wreck surveying.
But while the program is aimed at enhancing teachers’ STEM knowledge and content, Hollingsworth’s involvement was from a slightly different angle.
“I’ve got a lot of knowledge of small boat handling but nothing of larger ships, so I went in more with a focus to learn more about the operations of a large vessel and the career opportunities for students on a larger ship,” Hollingsworth says.
With Hollingsworth’s maritime subject being vocation-centred, this type of real-world application and experience is invaluable.
“A lot of them come into the course with a specific career in mind or wanting to get through with a qualification and then into a job, so being able to see what diverse range of careers options there are on the research vessels – from engineer to master, officers, to cooks and stewards, electricians on board – is excellent.”
Hollingsworth joined Seaview Downs Primary School teacher Christie Evans from South Australia, as the two Educator on Board shipmates, with three other teachers involved as part of an education outreach program.
“It was amazing to see the technology on board and the research going on, [and] the capabilities of the boat," he says.
“The vessel’s positioning system is amazing, so it can hold station and we were in a three-to-five-metre swell, and the boat was staying exactly in place while the researchers were collecting their samples."
Along Tassie’s east coast, the collection of mud or sediment samples was very important work.
“So this was looking into what’s been causing the algal bloom which has been closing the shell-fish industry in Tasmania,” Hollingsworth says.
“That was really interesting, because a lot of the students in my class, as I said, they don’t come from a science background, but they want to work in the shellfish industry – in areas like fish farming, oyster farming, fishing – so by seeing this research, it’s actually quite relevant to them, what the outcome of this research is.”
Hollingsworth says he enjoyed the live classroom webcasts during the voyage.
“We had one scheduled with our class and then they opened it up for any other class around Australia, who was interested, to log in and organise a web link.
“So we did about five or six of them throughout our time that we were onboard – we had an iPad, so we could walk around the ship and into the science labs and show them what was happening at the time.”
He says he’d highly recommend teachers to apply to take part in the CSIRO program, and if they're lucky enough to join the RV Investigator for a voyage, to grab the opportunity with both hands.
"Get involved with the researchers onboard as much as possible and ask questions.
"There’s just so much information and knowledge and expertise on board."