How does a high school outreach program engage our future scientists?

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The Secondary School Enrichment Program (SSEP) is one of the outreach initiatives developed in the Faculty of Science, The University of New South Wales (UNSW). In the face of declining enrolments in the enabling sciences, the program seeks to foster a culture of academic generosity by bringing our current and future scientists together to participate in authentic scientific research. Developed jointly with a local, non-selective but high performing secondary school, the SSEP aims to draw talented students into university science degree programs, particularly in the enabling science disciplines. The SSEP provides secondary school students with an insight into university campus life and how research is conducted via their participation in a research project, under the mentorship of science PhD students. Since its inception three years ago, the program has obtained consistently positive feedback from the participants. However, in order to better understand the benefits of such a program, this paper investigates the program’s perceived educational benefits for these students through pre- and post-program surveys. The program’s effectiveness will be defined in terms of (a) students’ interest in science; (b) providing an authentic scientific experience, (c) introduction to campus life, and (d) increased interest in tertiary study, tertiary study of science and study at UNSW. Here, we share our experiences in developing and coordinating the program, and evaluating its success in achieving the above objectives. Discussion will focus on exploring the usefulness of such programs to reinvigorate interest in tertiary study in science, and the feasibility of expanding the program.
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Tay, Chong Eng
Kofod, Michelle
Lino, Bianca
Quinnell, Rosanne
Whitaker, Noel
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Conference Paper
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UNSW Faculty