meriSTEM helps ensure the flow of Australian science grads

Group of students (8) undertaking science experiments in laboratory.

This year, over 1,000 senior high school students across the country are getting crash courses in the sciences straight from leading experts using meriSTEM, an initiative of The Australian National University (ANU).

MeriSTEM is a free online portal of resources and videos by academics which helps set secondary students up for success in their high school studies as well as prepare them for university.

After starting with physics in 2016, it has now grown to offer online courses in biology and chemistry, and is expanding to Earth and environmental sciences in 2021.

It's also proving invaluable as high school students continue their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year 11 student said it was "absolutely crucial" during the recent shift to online learning, and "saved" their physics grade.

Dean of the ANU College of Science, Professor Kiaran Kirk, is proud of how meriSTEM is supporting teachers.

"ANU is Australia's national university and we actively engage communities across Australia as well as do world-leading research. Having this accessible online program means we can give the opportunity of studying science at ANU to teachers and students wherever they are, and whatever their backgrounds," Professor Kirk said.

"The launch of the new biology and chemistry courses in July 2020 has seen a significant increase in teachers wanting to get on board to maximise their students' potential."

Teachers receive their own custom meriSTEM course for their class which helps them assign content-based homework. Knowing that students have learnt through videos and quizzes before class, teachers can spend more time working with individuals and on project and lab-based learning.

ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Grady Venville says the "persisting insufficiency" of qualified physics, maths and other science teachers across Australia, in particular in regional areas, is concerning, but meriSTEM could offer a solution. 

"It is especially valuable for teachers of these subjects to have access to reliable science learning materials created by experts for their students," Professor Venville said.

meriSTEM works with over 200 volunteer contributors to connect tertiary and secondary education. The format allows for the outreach work of researchers to reach thousands of students, in their own homes, supported by their teachers.

"We're building teacher capacity, we're keeping high school students engaged and showing what learning at university can be like. We're also building the communication skills and educational knowledge of researchers and university students who contribute," project coordinator Jay Ridgewell said.

To enquire about partnerships with meriSTEM or to contribute through volunteering, email the coordinator jay.ridgewell@anu.edu.au

To learn more about meriSTEM and to gain access to courses visit http://meristem.anu.edu.au

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