At the time of Robyn’s presentation, Kelly’s students were not only learning about microplastics, but had also visited JCU’s Orpheus Island Research Station, where they saw first-hand how microplastics impact the environment. As Kelly listened to Robyn’s presentation, she discovered the next step for her class to take.
“Robyn’s presentation was very inspiring and I thought we could do something similar to her artwork,” Kelly says. “I chatted with her at the end of her presentation, asking her about how she created the art, what materials she used, and what her process was. The more I spoke with her, the more I realised that this was something that could happen in the school space.”
Upon returning to school at the beginning of 2020, Kelly created a proposal for a project that combined Science, Technology, Art and Mathematics and included several classes and teachers. The aim was to engage students in raising awareness about the harmful impacts of microplastics. The first step was to have Kelly’s Earth and Environmental Science students collect plastic bottles for the art piece. However, when COVID-19 restrictions came into place in March, the project was put on hold.
A few months later, Kelly made a video to inform staff and students that as they returned to in-person classes, the students would begin collecting plastics bottles. But the project began to change when Kelly accepted a new role with the Department of Education as the Regional STEM Champion.
“When I left , Stephanie Lawther became the school’s STEAM champion and chose to continue the project with the art teachers ,” Kelly says. “The project became a collaboration between the technologies and visual arts teachers working together with the students, who were in the grade eight and nine STEAM class.”
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. In this project, not only was Trinity Bay High School’s STEAM champion leading the project, but Heads of Departments and teachers from those individual subject areas were involved as well, including Caroline Mudge, Janelle Williams, and Steve Johnson.
“Although the project didn’t go exactly the way it was originally proposed, it still happened, and it still had people collaborating to make it happen, which was the most important thing to me,” Kelly says. “That’s really what the project was about: raising awareness about microplastics through educating and involving students, teachers, different departments of the school, and community members.”
With such widespread collaboration, both the students and the teachers were learning as they worked together on the project. The students were learning from the science, technologies art and mathematics areas in the one project, while the teachers learnt from each other and from industry professionals that supported them.