The Standard

Flexible and engaging: Emmanuel College's new precinct aims to spark passion for science

Emmanuel College students Xavier Gercovich and Abbey Titmus enjoying the school's innovative new science precinct.

This is branded content for Emmanuel College.

Students and staff of Emmanuel College returning to school this year have been the first to experience learning in a new precinct aimed at sparking students' passion for science.

Within the development at the Warrnambool school's McAuley Campus three new science classrooms have been created and three existing rooms completely refurbished.

The input of Emmanuel's Science teachers was integral to the design of the innovative new precinct.

Staff members travelled to Melbourne and Geelong schools, accompanied by the College's Architect and Deputy Principal, to see and appreciate some of Victoria's best Science facilities including those at the Monash Arts and Science Secondary School, Scotch College and the Gene Technology Access Centre.

Several international longitudinal studies show a significant relationship between the quality of science facilities and student attitudes. Purpose-built, thoughtfully-designed facilities positively impact the behaviour of students and academic performance.

With student outcomes foremost in considering the design of the precinct, the focus was on flexible and open workspaces, flexible furnishings, aesthetics, technology, air quality, acoustics and noise, natural lighting, and temperature control.

Emmanuel's Head of Science Suzie Wellens said the school's investigations into best practice in other facilities was a key part of its strategy to develop the precinct.

"Visits to other facilities gave us valuable insights into refurbishments and new builds that had carefully considered ways to engage students and facilitate teacher best practice," she said.

"Integrating technology and providing flexible spaces and furnishings to best allow for collaborative work was given high priority."

Sparking a passion to pursue science: Student Leah Dickson during lessons in the exciting new Science precinct.

Flexibility was essential. "With the senior students relocating to McAuley Campus, the workspaces had to be very flexible, catering for a diverse range of year levels and subject content and this was very much reflected in the facilities we visited," Ms Wellens said.

The new facility moves away from fixed benches with sinks, opting instead for large, versatile tables that can be used for prac work, desk work and collaborative projects.

They can also be wheeled into any position within the space. Each room has two large interactive screens with touch screen ability so different groups can share information or use apps at the same time. These can also be used, for example, with dissections to enable a close-up view for all students even if they are not themselves performing the dissection.

"From an aesthetic point of view, we have large science-related designs on the walls, some really vibrant colours and lots of light," Ms Wellens said. "Our College designer, Melissa Crothers is also designing artwork for the interior windows that will highlight high-achieving Alumni in the Sciences."

Principal Peter Morgan said he hopes the new Science precinct will help to excite an interest or passion in science by being more engaging for students.

"It is more exciting, more interesting, more contemporary, more vibrant," Mr Morgan said. "This is about more than attracting higher numbers of Science students - it's about sparking a passion to pursue science."

Scientific literacy is a high priority for Emmanuel College, said Mr Morgan.

"The events of the past few years have really highlighted to the general public something that educators have always known - that scientific literacy is so important.

"Students need to understand the world they live in and to be sceptical and questioning of claims made by non-experts about scientific matters. They need to be able to draw their own conclusions based on evidence and to make informed decisions about their own health and the health of the environment."

It's hoped the new facilities will also help the school recruit more science and STEM teachers who are currently in short supply in Australia.

"It's been well documented that there is a shortage of science and STEM teachers in Australia," said Mr Morgan. "Having excellent facilities certainly makes it easier to attract and retain the best teachers."

Ms Wellens applauds the science teachers and technicians who had to plan a year without specialist facilities during the project build.

"They had to pack up and move twice and work from a building site container-style office," she said.

"The staff have been amazing at 'making do' and adapting during 2021 and we are all very excited to be working in this new Science precinct that will see us teaching and learning in excellent facilities well into the future."

Enrolments for Year 7 in 2023 at Emmanuel College are closing on April 29. Prospective families can take a look at the new Science precinct, and the school's outstanding facilities, by booking a tour with Registrar Jo Nelson at www.emmanuel.vic.edu.au

This is branded content for Emmanuel College.