Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) events manager Louise Monge says that CONASTA 67’s 570-plus attendees were the most ever at a Sydney conference.

“That included ... pre-service, primary and secondary teachers, principals, laboratory technicians and lab managers, science education lecturers and researchers from the tertiary sector,” she says.

Monge says that the benefits of attending CONASTA are twofold.

“It’s about the professional learning that they get from each day, [but] it’s also the networking, the opportunities of networking with like-minded people that ... some of these teachers don’t often get.

“We have people from across Australia, some of them from very rural or remote areas, and that opportunity to network with like-minded teachers is something that they don’t get every day.”

The conference opened with a speech from then-Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who spoke at length about the importance of STEM education, and the government’s plans in the area.

The next day, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel gave a speech on raising 21st century citizens, and the lessons we can learn from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

“Page after page, we see [Dune’s protagonist] learning. He’s curious and flexible and agile and collaborative – not because he attended classes on how to be curious, flexible, agile and collaborative, but because he developed those skills in the context of mastering content,” Finkel said.

“Principle. Practice. Application.  Principle. Practice. Application. That’s the lesson of Dune.”

Among many other notable presenters was the CSIRO’s Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, host of the popular ABC series Stargazing Live.