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The Centre actively participates in a range of outreach and communications activities in order to both engage the wider community in the relevance and importance of plant cell wall research; and to increase the broader understanding and acceptance of publically funded science, particularly to school students.
The benefits to the Centre from such activities are not limited to our immediate exposure to a wide cross section of the population: participation by Centre students and research scientists contributes to the essential ongoing development of their science communication skills.
The activities presented at these outreach events can range from interactive poster-based mechanisms of measuring the degree of community acceptance of GM technologies to more hands-on, practical experiences in demonstrating the difference between fibre content of various breakfast cereals. The programs can involve focussed workshops to small classes such as Get into Genes through to large public events and are usually undertaken in association with other parties.
Established in 2004, Get into Genes (GiG) has provided the opportunity for over 12,000 secondary school students to explore the use of gene technology in agriculture. In South Australia, GiG is run from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute and in Victoria through The Dairy Futures CRC at La Trobe University.
The Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls is a financial partner in GiG. Through GiG’s activities, we have contributed directly to providing insights into, and understanding of, gene technology in agriculture, particularly on the topic of renewable biofuels production and dietary fibre in human health.
National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology. Running each year in August, it features approximately 1000 events around Australia including those delivered by universities, schools, museums and science centres. In South Australia, the Centre participates in Science Alive, Australia’s largest science expo event with spectacular science and animal shows and a huge range of hands-on fun for all ages. The Centre participates in National Science Week with the ACPFG and TechnYou, a Federal Government supported initiative to help raise community awareness about emerging technologies and associated issues.
Scientists in Schools is a national program managed by CSIRO Education that creates and supports long-term partnerships between teachers and scientists. The program promotes science education in primary and secondary schools, helps to engage and motivate students in their learning of science, and broadens awareness of the types and variety of exciting careers available in the sciences. Scientists across all nodes of the Centre participate in this program.
Other outreach activities of the Centre involve participation at University and School open days, and larger events such as Royal Shows, commonly in association with the relevant node's host university or faculty.