Professors Pal Ahluwalia and Brian Schmidt, the Vice-Chancellor’s of USP and ANU with staff of the two institutions following the launch of the SCP.
As part of the Science Circus Pacific (SCP), a Talanoa session was held at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus between the University, Australian National University (ANU) and Graduate Women Fiji (GWF) on 13 June 2019.
SCP aims to build capacity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education and communication in the Pacific. It is a new partnership between USP, ANU, GWF and other Pacific organisations, with support from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT).
Dr Bibhya Sharma, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology & Environment (FSTE) commented that science today is at the forefront of addressing and finding solutions for global issues such as medical, climate change, renewable energy, disaster management, resource and food security, population and pollution, among others.
“SCP is an innovative platform to inspire future Pacific scientists by showing the science behind everyday activities and using common items to perform science experiments. We have to make students and communities interested in science, and this will be an extremely good addition to our collective efforts,” he remarked.
SCP will work closely with FSTE’s In-Country Science Programmes and Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP).
Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President commended the initiative saying that having a very robust science faculty is critical to the University’s success.
“This is something I am very passionate about and where I believe the University will excel in. The Pacific Region demands a science faculty that is made for the 21st century,” he said.
He added he was very pleased to partner with both ANU and GWF.
“It is absolutely vital that we get more young women into STEM because this is our future. This is the beginning of a wonderful initiative and I thank all those who have been involved,” he stated.
Professor Brian Schmidt, ANU Vice-Chancellor mentioned that being able to find a partner like USP is the perfect way of reaching out to bring science and technology into the Pacific region.
He said the SCP is not focused on a small number of people involved in schools and communities but understanding that everyone needs science and technology regardless of their occupation.
Ms Charlotte Taylor, GWF President said that it is an honour to be involved in this partnership and share their passion with two of the largest and esteemed universities.
“We are the only organisation in Fiji that promotes women to take up non-traditional fields of occupation. We have found out from studies that it is not important to provide scholarships at tertiary level but we need to plant that seed at a much earlier age,” she noted.
SCP aims to share the wonders of STEM with Pacific students, teachers and the wider community to create the curiosity, skills, knowledge and motivation needed to support individual careers and countries’ development. The project will run from 2019 to 2021, delivering three major outreach and capacity building projects to Pacific Island nations.
The travelling programme, delivered by ANU teams working in partnership with Pacific organisations including USP, uses low-cost everyday materials to make science astonishing through shows in schools and public venues, workshops for teachers, interactive exhibits and community displays, and strategic capacity building in our Pacific partners.
Its goal is to inspire teachers, establish sustainable Pacific-led outreach programmes and in the longer-term the first interactive science centres in the Pacific Islands.
Partnerships are central to Science Circus Pacific. The heart of the model is to collaboratively train, equip and further empower Pacific organisations so they can continue to provide impacts and drive the project in their countries.
Research, monitoring and evaluation will occur throughout the project to inform content, assess impact, refine partnerships and capacity building, and identify pathways for growth and development.
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