The George Alexander Foundation Case Study
The George Alexander Foundation has a long history of supporting talented young people and in funding environment initiatives, especially programs which offer practical experience. The Student Challenge meets both of these objectives by giving students who display academic ability, leadership potential and commitment to their community the chance to work with some of Australia's leading environmental scientists on genuine conservation research projects.
A grant from the George Alexander Foundation gave 19 students from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland the opportunity to participate in the Student Challenge. The students joined Dr Peggy Rismiller on the Echidnas & Goannas of Kangaroo Island project and Dr Michael Mahony on the Australia's Vanishing Frogs expedition. The students worked as field research assistants helping to collect much needed data for these long-term monitoring projects. They experienced life as an environmental scientist and developed a range of different skills, both personal and academic.
"It was good to see, touch and learn about a lot of animals, not just frogs and to meet the people behind the research."
Lee, Murrumburrah High School, Australia's Vanishing Frogs
In particular the students commented on how much they enjoyed the hands-on, 'learning through doing' focus of the teams. The experiential aspect of the Student Challenge gave the participants a new perspective on science and gave them practical skills in team work, communication and problem solving.
"I can now see science and fieldwork as much more interesting that I did previously as I really enjoyed all the hands-on work and practicality of the project."
Jacqueline, Brimbank College, Australia's Vanishing Frogs
The participants funded by the George Alexander Foundation grant are senior secondary students at a critical point in decision making about their future studies and careers. The Student Challenge gave these students an insight into life as a research scientist and gave them the chance to talk to the scientists, the research team and like-minded peers about decisions for their future. Many students commented that the experience reinforced their interest in environmental science gave them the confidence that they had made the right decisions about their future.
"I have always wanted to work with animals and the Student Challenge has made me want to work with animals even more. I now understand more about what is involved in fieldwork and I learnt new skills that will help me in my future career path."
Mitchell W, Tumbarumba High School, Australia's Vanishing Frogs
Student Challenge equipped the students with the skills and knowledge necessary to stimulate behavioural change in their lives and the lives of those around them - their friends, classmates, families and the community at large. Participants returned from the field with a positive change in their thinking toward the environment and its future.
"Taking care of the environment was the most important message I took away from the Student Challenge. I think you must take action if you can when it comes to caring for species including ourselves."
Dhieu M, Brimbank College, Australia's Vanishing Frogs