Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems

  I become excited when I read of young global citizens coming up with inovative solutions to a global issue affecting people. Here’s an example fg a positive outcome driven by the inspiration of a student barely out of primary school.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, COLO. — In many ways, Gitanjali Rao is a typical 11-year-old: energetic and chatty, with a smile that lights up her face. She can also talk easily about carbon nanotubes, Arduino processors, the reactions between lead acetate and chloride, and how to think through a long-term design process – from concept to experimentation and building. Plus, she’s driven to come up with real solutions to big problems.

Last month, Gitanjali earned the top prize at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She invented a portable device that can test for lead in water, which she presented to a panel of scientists and school administrators from around the country.

Project Sparked By Water Crisis In Michigan

The city of Flint, Michigan, has been facing a water emergency because there was too much lead in its water. This story inspired her work.

Kathleen Shafer is a researcher in plastics technologies at 3M, a company that makes thousands of different products, from post-it notes and scotch tape to medical devices and software. Shafer was paired with Gitanjali over the summer as a mentor. She says that Gitanjali has a “passion for making a difference through her innovation.”

Inspired To Solve “Real-World Problems”

For Gitanjali, coming up with an innovative solution is the reason science is her favorite subject. “Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems out there,” she says.

Gitanjali focused on water testing as she learned more about the situation in Flint, Michigan. She heard about how limited the options were for people to determine if their water was contaminated.

“I hadn’t thought about creating a device until I saw my parents try to test for lead in our water,” Gitanjali says. “I realized it wasn’t a very reliable process, since they were using test strips.” Some strips labeled their water as safe and others showed that lead was present. The more accurate option was both expensive and time-consuming. It involved collecting samples and sending them to be looked at by professionals.

“I wanted to do something to change this not only for my parents, but for the residents of Flint and places like Flint around the world,” says Gitanjali.

Brainstorming The Best Solution To Problem

She started with brainstorming. She quickly realized that her initial idea – coming up with a way to remove lead from water, possibly by finding a bacterium that could remove it – wasn’t very practical and might introduce other hazardous chemicals into water.

She stumbled onto the idea of carbon nanotube sensors – chemical sensors at the atomic scale – after reading about them on a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website. She discovered an article about how useful the sensors are for detecting hazardous gases. When an atom loses or gains an electron, it becomes an ion. This means it has a positive or negative electric charge. These ions are put into the tiny nanotubes with certain gases in them. The ions and the gases then interact, combining together to form compounds, which can be tested.

A Work In Progress For Girl

The article got Gitanjali thinking. Why couldn’t she use the same idea to test for lead in water? She started researching carbon nanotubes as well as the properties of lead and what sort of chemical would react with it. She also considered options to receive and transmit the data before settling on an Arduino processor, a programmable computer chip.

Gitanjali then moved from brainstorming to experimentation. She decided on lead acetate as the most common compound of lead found in water and chloride as the ion she would introduce to react with the lead acetate. Also, she chose to work with “buckypaper,” a thin sheet made from carbon nanotubes that she could fold and cut. Gitanjali then started making the first model for her project.

Device Named After A Greek Goddess

The result: Tethys, named for the Greek goddess of fresh water. It’s a small blue housing that Gitanjali built using her school’s 3-D printer. It has computer chips and a battery inside, a disposable cartridge that can be dipped in water, and a Bluetooth device that transmits the data to a phone. A free app, which Gitanjali designed with support from her computer science teacher, gives instant results.

The process wasn’t always easy, though, and that’s what Gitanjali says she emphasizes most to other children who might want to invent or innovate. Failure is part of the process. “Failure is just another step to success,”she says.

A  Few Roadblocks Along The Way

In the course of developing Tethys, Gitanjali hit numerous roadblocks. But Shafer, her 3M mentor, helped with developing the device and cutting her presentation down to five minutes, which Gitanjali says was a challenge.

Shafer notes that she’s a big fan of competitions like this one, because they make connections between children and working scientists. It allows students to envision what a career could look like and see that scientists aren’t one-dimensional.

11-Year-Old Also Awarded $25,000 cheque

Gitanjali is quick to credit not only her teachers with helping her, but also her parents, who she says have constantly supported and encouraged her “crazy ideas.”

Along with the honor of winning the competition, which is open to fifth- to eighth-graders, Gitanjali received a check for $25,000, which she plans to use to further develop her device and get production started (her goal is for it to be commercially available within a year). She also wants to donate to the Children’s Kindness Network and save for college.

She already has big plans for the future, studying diseases and genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

For now, she’s already thought of the next challenge she wants to try to solve: the growing problem of adolescent depression. And she has a working concept for what she wants to create. She calls it a “happiness detector.”


Welcome to Global Projects

Please excuse my excitement as I share something that I’m proud of.

Welcome to Global Projects

Global Projects

The global economy and technology are transforming the Australian economy and society. The work people do is changing and in order to prosper, skills need to be adapted.

Our workforce is going global and the global workforce is coming to us. Young Australians need global competencies to live and work all over the world in global teams with global clients.

Global Projects help teachers to plan for meaningful deep learning experiences that develop global competencies. They enable the investigation of global events, with many referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, answering the call for global citizens who can make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Global projects allow teachers to incorporate multiple learning areas, teach the Victorian Capabilities in an authentic context and provide opportunities for students to have agency over their learning.

These projects have been sourced from across the globe and will shortly be published with alignment to the Victorian Curriculum. The work has been done for you. Keep a watch out!

For more information about Global Projects and the implementation in your classroom


Bethink Global brings global issues to the curriculum in an exciting and positive call for globally competent learners


What makes a good life?-eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world

I’ve been reading about education as a tool of democracy and a conduit to connect learners to broader social issues. It made me think about how to learners in their world of sufficiency, could have a better and more empathic understanding of people who live in poverty. 
What could a lesson look like in the classroom?


$1.90 per person per day is the standard adopted by the World Bank and other international organizations to reflect the minimum consumption and income level needed to meet a person’s basic needs.

That means that people who fall under that poverty line—that’s 1/8 of the world’s population, or 767 million people—lack the ability to fulfill basic needs, whether it means eating only one bowl of rice a day or forgoing health care when it’s needed most.

The purpose of this activity is for students to raise questions and clarify their own thoughts about what things are most important to having a good life. They may also begin to see that although people living in poverty are lacking many material things, their lives may also include some aspects that the students value. This thinking will be important as students learn more about experiences of poverty.

Activity – The Good Life Road

Tell students that they will be considering what makes a good life. First, watch or read a stimulus resource as a class (such as Herbert and Harry by Pamela Allen, The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson, or the TEAR video, Working Together in an Indian Village

Divide students into groups of four or five and give each group a set of cards with the following phrases on them. (They are available to print at the Global Education website ) It is helpful if each card can be printed in a different colour.

Having clean water and toilets

Having jobs for adults

Having friends and family who love and help you

Being able to make choices about what happens in your life

Having a safe place to live

Having TVs, computers and other electronic stuff

A government that helps if you need it

Getting an education

Having lots of money

Being healthy

Having great toys

Having fashionable clothes

Being famous

In their groups, students read through the cards and make a decision about how necessary each item is for a person to have a good life. They should place each card along the Good Life Road, a line marked on the ground with ends marked ‘Very important’ and ‘Not important at all’. The cards should be positioned according to how important students think the item on the card is to having a good life. For example, if the group thinks the item on the card is vital to having a good life they should place it at the ‘Very important’ end, or if they think it is not important they should place it at the ‘Not important at all’ end. They can also place cards at any point in between


When the groups have finished, the whole class should look at the continuum. The different coloured cards will help them to notice any trends across the cards from different groups. Students can comment on why they agree or disagree with the placement of particular items.

Is there general agreement within the class about particular items?

Are there differences between the class’s answers and what they think other people may say about a good life?

Do students’ lives actually reflect the things they say are important?

Are there any connections between the thinking in this activity and the people/characters in the book or video they viewed previously?

Do they think that people living in poverty are able to have a good life?

Can students think of anything they have in common with people living in poverty?


With thanks to the One World Centre.

Resistance Art


Resistance art is a form of art that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1970s after the Soweto uprising that focused on resisting apartheid and celebrating African strength and unity. Today Protest or Resistance art has become a broad term that refers to creative works that concern or are produced by activists and social movements. It is a form of non violent, creative expression used against many issues. There are also contemporary and historical works and currents of thought that can be characterized in this way.

Visual arts develop critical and creative thinking, can be used as social and cultural practice, can communicate ideas and for the expression of views and beliefs. (Victorian Curriculum)

Learners and educators can join in an exploration at Resistance Art: a UNESCO Human Rights Exploration

Have your classroom celebrate International Day of Human Rights through a series of stimulating and interactive activities. This video-conference will explore how the visual arts can be used as a tool to bring awareness to social issues, conflicts and oppression.

This conference will be focusing on SDG #16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a different strategy for a different time

….the rise of political parties whose platforms thrive on nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia, strayi further & further away from traditions of tolerance & inclusiveness in democratic societies….

The requirement for global citizenship to be part of the education system is an imperative in a changing world. Our young ones deserve our thoughtful preparation for the issues set up on our watch.


Source: BUMS High Rank Submission to Climate Change Review 2017

Sometimes highly politicised issues need another platform to allow us ordinary folk to digest the nitty gritty, the base elements that affect us all.

Coral Bleach, on behalf of the Billionaires United Mining Service, writes for those who know that climate change is real and affects people, not just ordinary people but those in the 1% of the world’s population who garner most of the world’s wealth.

“This is a paradigm example of coal investile dysfunction”

“We will @TurnbullMalcolm, but only if the research focus is on to protect our effluence!”

Follow Coral @TheCoalDiggers for more incite and illuminating discussion

I used to be a classroom teacher.

  My vocation in life became learning and the sharing of that learning.

Year after year I searched for every possible way to switch on that love of learning for each learner that sat in my class.  In the beginning of my professional journey and fresh out of under graduate studies it was youth, enthusiasm and dogged determination that spurred me on. As the years moved on, the curriculum filled, the administrative duties increased, the accountability sky rocketed and the number of duties outside the face to face teaching time soared. I barely had breathing space, yet alone time to understand the rationale behind the curriculum of the day.  I taught through many iterations of my State’s curriculum.  Each time, the opportunity to thresh out the direction and implication became more fleeting. The treadmill of pace became faster.

I recall the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians, a manifesto written by politicians in 2008, that promised every child a world-class education was released. The year was 2008.  I was on sick leave when the professional development about the Melbourne Declaration took place at my school. In fact, I barely knew about that document at all.  The years moved on and my teaching and learning were without its wisdom. Time was too short to educate myself to learn about the world, to smell the roses.

After my time in the classroom I became an education officer for a project that opened my eyes and enabled me to learn with other teachers. I looked at curricula from here and across the globe.  I learned to use social media and met other educators from around the world, discussed pedagogies, educational development, and future implications. Books and research articles caught my attention and I put myself out there to continue my passion of sharing learning but this time on a global stage. I travelled-to places I never dreamt I would. I’ve seen other cultures, other perspectives to life that in turn have broadened my understanding of what it is to live. I set up a website, simply because I had the time to learn how to do so. My network of educators has expanded to the point that there is always an opportunity to discuss or work at understanding more about learning. And I know all about the Melbourne Declaration.

Now I am retired from the classroom but still highly involved in education.  I have the time to reflect and review curricula, educational research and directives. I can now connect the dots. I learn every day-about education, the perspectives available and the fascinating stage that is the setting for every engagement we make-our world and its people.

And here’s the point. Teachers are time poor. They barely have the chance to get to the bathroom or document on each student. They are saturated in educational material, too much to absorb and implement without the time to do so. That’s if they’re not sick.

Their training is also needing review. “Teachers have not been trained to the new requirements. There is a lack of political courage due to a lack of understanding by the general population of the risks of not moving forward. In fact, change is the safest approach.” Charles Fadel, 2017. The attrition rates for new teachers (estimates vary from 25% to 40% within five years) should concern us. (The State of Australia: education, The Conversation, 2014). That’s not a great return on four years of study.

Here’s my two bob’s worth. Take a long hard look at how we are educating our students. Our system of teaching land earning has not perceptibly moved on since the models constructed in the industrial revolution. “Today the world of work is changing fast. Jobs are disappearing as automation replaces the need for people and new jobs are emerging that demand transferable skills and capabilities. Schools do not teach for the societal needs at large and employability. This is coupled with narrow assessments focused on traditional knowledge [The 3 Rs] and placing a value on scores – not deep learning.” Charles Fadel, 2107.

“Research consistently demonstrates that teacher quality is the greatest in-school influence on student engagement and outcomes.” (‘Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: What does the evidence tell us about effective training?’ NSW Department of Education and Communities, Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, Office of Education, 2013). Teaching is an isolated profession. I’d factor sabbaticals into a teacher’s years of duty, an opportunity when they can go out into a community, wherever that may be, and just learn for the sake of learning. The experiences will be enriching, will reinvigorate them as educators and reignite their passion to educate others.

Investing in educators would have to be a comprehensive insurance for the improvement in quality of education, for the improvement in attitude of students and for the direction our leadership says it wants- to promote equity and excellence in Australian schooling and to have successful learners who are confident and creative individuals – active and informed citizens.


What makes a great global project?

As part of Global Leadership Week I’m took my first steps to enter the real time world of connected learning.

I was to start a Twitter Chat on Global Projects  using the hashtag @globalprojects   

Now if you’ve hosted a real time chat you’ll know that countdown time is quite a tense one.  Is everything in place. Will I sound cool? Will I have followers?

But just 15 minutes before my start time I decided to search my hashtag.  Yes, it had already been used, which meant I’d be bringing people into the discussion who would have no idea what I was doing. Mad rush to change that hashtag to … #glopro  This one sounded on trend! Continue reading

Switched on Schools

Being the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhil.

Two schools across the country are showing leadership in environmental ansd sustainable change. Agents of societal change, students from Freemantle Senior High School and Melbourne Girls College are partnering with local community, influencing policy makers and through change leadership, are intrinsically motivated to make a difference. Pedagogical transformation to an otherwise outdated and uninspiring curriculum has led these students to deeper learning and more ambitious expectations about their own future.

In 2012, Freemantle SHS became the first Carbon Neutral High School in Australia by reducing their fossil fuel use, implementing renewable energy projects and capturing carbon emissions through tree planting and using a ‘whole-school’ approach and with the help of community partnerships, Freemantle SCS, cut their carbon emissions by over 15% in the first three years of the Carbon Neutral Project.

Watch their video: Champion, audit, partner, action, repeat 

With the aim of making their school carbon neutral

Melbourne Girls’ College is an award winning sustainable school, proudly partnering with the City of Yarra with the ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2020. MGC is the 2015 recipient of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, receiving funding to put plans into action and now boasts an interactive PV solar array, pedal and ergo generators, a microhydroturbine and solar powered seal fountain with a strategy to reduce energy use to achieve their goal.

I had the pleasure of visiting Melbourne Girls’ College during a student led sustainability conference late last year. The passion, co-learning and collaborative culture among students from a number of schools involved in the conference was inspiring.

The MGC students also held an action to celebrate their school’s pledge and send a message to decision makers to follow their lead and power all schools and Australia with 100% renewable energy !

Huge congratulations to the MGC environment team, students, staff and parents for leading the way and adopting the pledge !

Victorian schools are encouraged to adopt renewable energy practices with the help of Sustainability Victoria, but so far none have achieved carbon neutral status.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training said two-thirds of schools’ total energy use was consumed outside of school hours. It also estimated that as much as 40 per cent of all energy use in schools is not essential.


What is most impressive is that both schools have leadership teams that enable student led deep learning.  The students experience the CNP at South Fremantle SHS in all learning areas. It is embedded deeply in the school curriculum, for example in sustainability themes in Science, Marine and Ocean, and Earth and Environment studies. It is embedded in qualifications such as our students’ achievements and hands on experience in conservation through endorsed community programs such as the Rio Tinto Earth Assist Program. It is equally embedded in community service; since 2008 South FreemantleSCS students have propagated and planted over 29,000 trees in the school grounds, in the Wheatbelt and in bush-fire affected Toodyay via our ‘Seed to Tree’ project.

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

By involving students in deep learning they become active in caring for our planet’s future, applying their learning in meaningful ways inside the school and outside in the community. South Fremantle SHS is one of only two schools in WA nominated to participate in STELR, a national initiative that encourages students’ participation in Maths and Sciences with a particular focus on renewable energy. Twenty one students attended the 2013 Australian Youth Climate Coalition Event – ‘Start the Switch’ workshops, mentoring and training in sustainability leadership.

It makes me so proud to know that young people are doing great things to make positive change in their schools and communities. These are the global citizens of tomorrow, TODAY.

You have five seconds to eat that chip that fell to the floor, right?



I’ve long believed the five second rule was some phrase made up to overcome the guilt in eating things that dropped to the floor, especially coveted morsels.

Now check out this Newsela article by Gavin Haynes, The Guardian, adapted by Newsela staff with some scientific research into this seemingly light weight assertion that it’s OK to eat off the floor.


For as long as anyone can remember, humankind has believed that any food item dropped on the floor can still be eaten, as long as it was on the floor for less than five seconds. It is almost as if Moses came down from Sinai with a stone tablet bearing the five-second rule.

Of course, there are still rebels who say that floors are consistently unclean. They think that if food spends any time on the floor it becomes unsafe. Then there are those who are just happy to take their chances. But lately, scientists have been trying to get in on the act.

Copernicus flipped long-standing beliefs in the 1500s by pointing out that the Earth revolved around the sun instead of the other way around. Like him, these scientists are flipping over an ancient belief system. This is the belief system surrounding buttered toast.

Different Food, Different Dirt, Same 5 Seconds

Anthony Hilton, a professor at Aston University, will speak at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, England. He is a professor of microbiology, or tiny organisms, including germs. The fair is Britain’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and math for young people. Hilton says that different foods can pick up different amounts of dirt from the floor in just a few seconds. He says that sandwiches, potato chips, dry toast and cookies can all chill out on the floor for half an hour. When picked up, they will do no harm to the eater. But candy, cooked pasta and doughnuts are different. They can get contaminated, or pick up harmful dirt or germs, in just about five seconds.  Hilton also found that tiled surfaces are dirtier than carpets.

These findings might be astonishing to humans trying to understand the effects of pasta spillage. However, there is a more amazing fact in the story. It is that looking into the five-second rule has become something of an industry for modern researchers.

Maybe Science Is Oversimplifying Things

In 2003, Jillian Clarke established the power of the five-second rule to attract media attention. Clark dropped gummy bears on the floor. The ones dropped on rough tiles and left for five seconds, would pick up more bacteria than those left on smooth tiles for the same amount of time.

Rutgers University concluded in 2006 that the five-second rule was a “significant oversimplification.” In 2007, Paul Dawson of Clemson University concluded in the Journal of Applied Microbiology that the dirtiness of the floor is much more important than how long the food rests on it. Dawson also agreed that dropping food on carpet left it much cleaner than dropping it on tiles. There was only with 1 percent contamination with carpet compared with 70 percent on tiles.

In 2014, Aston University announced that when food hit the floor, it instantly picked up at least some bacteria. However, the amount of dirt stuck to the food increased tremendously in the period from three to 30 seconds after landing.

The Germs Below

All of this is may be fascinating to people who worry about germs, or who tend to drop their food on the floor frequently. But for the rest of us, it just looks like a smart form of cooperation between researchers and journalists. The researchers are trying to get their somewhat dry findings to a wider audience. The headline writers want to make the researchers’ dull-sounding facts more exciting for their readers.

The biggest story never told in five-second rule headlines is that it does not matter either way. It is true that contamination of food from dirty cooking tools is a leading cause of food poisoning. Using unwashed knives that have cut raw chicken to cut raw vegetables can make people sick. However, good food landing on a fairly clean floor has seldom harmed anyone.

Hilton’s study covered typical floor types in bacteria. However, he found that dropped food picked up no more than 0.0004 percent of it.

Is the five-second rule dead, then? As the great religions have already found, it takes more than a few scientific facts to kill off our deep desire to believe.



Ask your learners what they think about the five second rule before reading or showing them this article.

There is a quiz and modifications of the article to suit readers from various levels throughout the primary and secondary levels.