Science teacher shares secret behind Olympiad success

Bunbury Catholic College (BCC) is a co-educational secondary school located on the southwest coast of Western Australia. The school provides an education for over 1400 students across two campuses.

Earth Science teacher at BCC Wendy Morris (pictured here with her student Gabriel Grzelka) shares the secrets behind her school’s recent success in the Science Olympiad program.

How long has your school been involved in the Science Olympiad program?

This was our second year of doing the Olympiad program. We achieved four distinctions last year and this encouraged us to have another go.

Why does your school take part in the Olympiad program? Why do you think it’s important for your school? Why do you think it’s important for your students?

We mostly do it for fun and to challenge our students. I think the Olympiad is a great way for students to test their Earth and Environmental Science knowledge against other students around Australia. It was certainly very encouraging for last years’ students to see that they ranked highly against other students.

Can you describe the type of student you think would enjoy the Olympiad experience?

Any student who enjoys a challenge and is prepared to have a go knowing they may get questions that they have not encountered before.

How do you encourage students to take part in the Olympiads?

I tell the students that it is going to be hard, it’s going to be long and there will be things you won’t have a clue about, but we will be all in it together. And really what have they got to lose? It is only two hours of their time, but they have the chance of earning a place on the Wall of Fame at the back of our classroom. Then I bribe them with chocolate! They see it as a challenge. If they are successful, then we all celebrate. If they don’t do so well, they gave it their best shot and that is to be commended as well.

How do your students prepare for the Olympiad exams? Did they use Olympiads Online?

I really leave it up to the students. The exam comes at a busy time of the year with most students having a full ATAR load. The boys were given the link to the Online materials (Olympiads Online) if they wanted to use them. I think most of them went into the exam with no preparation and the majority achieved certificates. Two of the boys only signed up on the day of the exam when illness prevented others from sitting it. They both received certificates (Credit and Distinction).

You have two students attending the Olympiad summer school in 2016. Why do you think this year has been this successful?

I think our success this year stems from the exam suiting the WA Curriculum and the quality science teaching the students have received in the Earth Sciences in years 8 – 12. Of course, the calibre of the students involved also played the largest role. Both boys are self motivated, well read and have a wide interest in the Earth Sciences.