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2021 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Mr Scott Graham     

Head of Agriculture at Barker College in New South Wales, Mr Scott Graham is changing the way agricultural science is taught at secondary schools, by developing unique programs to engage students and emphasise the positive difference agriculture makes to society.

Mr Graham draws on 12 years of teaching experience to educate students about the importance of agriculture in Australia, and the employment opportunities in this scientific and business-driven field.

Under his leadership, student enrolments in agriculture at Barker College have tripled over the past seven years. The school has more than double the number of Year 12 agriculture students than any other school in Australia. Around 30 per cent of these students have gone on to pursue agriculture-related degrees at university level.

Watch a video about their work

[Music plays and the image shows a slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and the name, Mr Scott Graham]

[Image changes to show a classroom of students looking at Scott Graham presenting, and the camera gradually zooms in on Scott Graham]

My name is Scott Graham and I'm the Head of Agriculture here at Barker College in New South Wales.

[Image changes to show a close view of Scott talking to the camera]

Barker College was founded over 130 years ago and Agriculture has been a subject ever since the beginning.

[Images move through of an aerial view looking down on sheep being drafted in yards, cattle running across a paddock, a ute moving through red dirt terrain, and then two people next to a ute]

However, in the mid-2000s the subject was almost shut down due to low demand for agriculture.

[Image changes to show a group of students standing in a paddock and listening to a teacher, and then the image changes to show a school group walking through a large warehouse]

One of the reasons for these low enrolments is students didn't have a clear understanding of all of the opportunities in agriculture, both rural and urban.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then images move through of an aerial view looking down on students leaving a bus on a farm, and then Scott pointing to a map while talking]

One of our strategies has been implementing programs and methods of teaching to allow students to see the bigger picture of agriculture, whether it be in the area of food security or climate change and how agriculture deals with that.

[Image changes to show a view looking down on a group of students in the bushland]

We want students to be involved in changing the way things are done.

[Image changes to show a view of an orchard just beginning to bud, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera]

We've really changed the focus from why would you study agriculture to why wouldn't you study agriculture?

[Image changes to show a group of students listening to a presenter while seated outside in an orchard, and then the image changes to show Scott presenting to students in the classroom]

Agriculture’s going to have something to do with students for every single day of their life.

[Image changes to show Scott opening up small shade houses on wheels and showing students the plants inside, and the camera zooms in on the plants]

So it's really important that they have something to do with agriculture.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the students and looking at the shade houses again, and then the image changes to show Scott and the students looking at raised garden beds]

Over the past seven years at Barker College, we have tripled enrolments in agriculture, and we now have over 380 students studying agriculture voluntarily from Year 9 to 12.

[Image changes to show a close view of Scott talking to the camera, and then images move through of Scott presenting, and then Scott talking to the camera again]

One of our strategies has been to maintain the academic focus of agriculture so that we have more students following through from the younger years through to the senior years, Year 11 and 12, and then onto a career in agriculture for many students.

[Images move through of Scott presenting, and then the image changes to show a ute parked by a dam in a paddock, and the camera gradually zooms out to show a large dam]

I'm deeply passionate about how we teach agriculture. And so I'm undertaking a part-time PhD in looking at how we change the image of agriculture in secondary schools in Australia.

[Image changes to show students running across a paddock, and then the image changes to show an aerial view looking down on sheep being drafted into pens, and then the camera pans over the pens]

For every student that completes an agriculture degree at university there are around four to five jobs to fill. My passion is to see more students studying agriculture to fill these jobs.

[Image changes to show Scott presenting to a classroom, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to two students]

One of the things I love about teaching is when students understand things for the first time and also seeing them enjoy and have a passion for agriculture when they never would have thought they would have that.

[Image changes to show Scott talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Scott presenting next to a large screen doing a presentation]

It's an honour being recognised in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. I think it reflects the importance of teaching and education, but also the integral role that agriculture plays in our nation.

[Image changes to show a group of students on top of a hill, and then the image changes to show Scott talking to the camera]

I hope this Prize inspires more students across Australia to take up agriculture and also more teachers to support the teaching of agriculture in this country.

[Image changes to show a new slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and the name, Mr Scott Graham.]

See their acceptance speech

[Image shows a slide showing the Australian Government Crest, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools medallion animated and turning, and the words 2021, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools, and the name, Mr Scott Graham.]

[Image changes to show a facing view of Scott talking to the camera and a Prize medallion and text appears: Mr Scott Graham]

I'm incredibly humbled to receive the 2021 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. I'd like to thank the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Science and Technology, Melissa Price, as well as the Nomination Committee for this honour. These Prizes highlight the importance of science and in this case, agriculture to the future, health, well-being and prosperity of our nation. To Professor Jim Pratley for nominating me. Thank you so much. It's an absolute privilege to work with you as my PhD supervisor at CSU.

To Phillip Heath, Head of Barker College and Luciano Mesiti, CEO of PIEFA, thank you both for supporting the nomination and for your continual support of agriculture. To my family, thank you so much for your constant support and for always being there for me. To the Barker College agriculture staff, both past and present, Allie, Tim, Lara, Brianna, Ben, Alison, Lucy, and Tamara. This Prize is also a recognition of what each of you do every day in your classrooms to inspire our students to understand the importance of agriculture to our society, thank you. To my fellow science staff, we have an incredibly strong science culture at Barker College, which is a result of what each of you individually and collectively do. Thank you for all you've taught me over the years.

[Image continues to show Scott talking to the camera]

And finally, thank you to the many, many students at Barker College who have chosen to study agriculture and especially the hundreds who have decided to pursue agriculture degrees after school. It's a privilege to have taught each of you. And I cannot wait to see the incredible things that you'll do in the future.

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