Real world science

How do schools ensure the tech they purchase is used to its educational potential? Instead of simply having ‘a cool bit of kit’, this Melbourne school is using a new drone to engage students in real world science research.

The students of Macleod College have been facing a serious challenge when it comes to monitoring their school’s nesting boxes – unless there is a possum tail hanging out, they can’t tell what’s living inside.

But after successfully applying for a 2016 National Science Week grant the Victorian school has been able to purchase a drone so they can now take a much closer look.

A partnership project with La Trobe University aims to allow the secondary school students to contribute to real world research as citizen scientists. All the data collected is passed on to the university to assist in their attempt to study sugar glider possums in their local area.

Science and Biology teacher Belinda Moody says La Trobe supplied the nesting boxes with the aim of boosting the habitats available for hollow dwelling species in their area.

‘There are a lot of brush tail possums and ring tail possums in the area and I suppose we’re hoping … we might have a variety of bird species using the hollows as well.’

The students involved in the project include those in a Year 10 elective subject and a team of student volunteers. When they were first getting started, they borrowed a piece of equipment from the local council, which Moody describes as ‘a camera on a very long pole’, in an effort to see which species were using the boxes.

‘It didn’t really work, it was really difficult for the students to manage and to get a clear angle. So when we saw that the theme for National Science Week was droids and drones, we thought “oh that would just be perfect”.’

Since the arrival of their new drone, the school has been running lunchtime training programs to hone the students’ flying skills. Moody says this project has allowed her students to improve their science and research skills in an authentic way. ‘I think there needs to be authentic outcomes for what they’re doing or it all becomes a little bit academic.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit