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Next-gen citizen scientists.

Tucked away at the northern end of Holloways Beach is an Environmental Education Centre that has been delivering specialist outdoor and environmental programs for over 30 years.  About 2500 students visit each year, contributing scientific data to school and citizen science programs that help expand the knowledge base about our local environment.

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It's very easy to be swayed by misinformation and our own biases. Science literacy enables us to approach problems and issues with an unbiased perspective.

The Centre’s ethos is all about learning through interaction with the natural environment. Programs are tailored to different schools and aligned with curriculum requirements, using hands-on learning opportunities like probe testing, water and sediment sample collections, mangrove monitoring and microplastics surveys.

Students work to professional standards and use approved methodologies for their sampling, surveying and monitoring – the data is lab-tested, scientifically published and used by schools and science databanks like AUSMAP and MangroveWatch.

Science literacy in the era of over-information

With so much information (and misinformation!) out there, it’s more important than ever to be equipped to recognise the difference between opinion and fact, and to be able to see bias.

“It needs to happen at school, it needs to happen at home, and it needs to be ongoing,” says Terri Mulqueen.

“It’s very easy to be swayed by misinformation and our own biases. Students regularly ask: ‘Who has written this or done this, why, what is the methodology they are using, and is there bias in the methodology?’. Science literacy enables us to approach problems and issues with an unbiased perspective and observe and rationalise our thoughts before making an informed decision.”

An appreciation for conservation

Teaching Principal Louise Carver says research has shown that spending time in nature improves health and wellbeing, and also supports an appreciation for conservation.

“We’re more likely to care about environmental issues if we have that connection. Getting kids outdoors and into nature is a great way to establish this early in life and, lucky for us, we have some of the most beautiful and accessible ecosystems on our doorstep!”

Mangrove habitat is a big focus of the Environmental Education Centre – it’s literally on the doorstep and is often maligned because of a lack of awareness of its critical function.

When new groups of students come to the centre they are asked ‘who loves mangroves?’. Very few put their hand up. By the time they leave, nearly every student says they have a new appreciation.

We asked Louise and Terri for their top suggestions for parents and caregivers wanting to encourage science literacy at home:

  • Foster curiosity. You don’t need to go far – take a walk to the park or visit your local creek or beach.
  • Encourage questions and find out the answers together.
  • Get involved in citizen science activities like the Aussie Backyard Bird CountReefClean or FrogID.

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