Inspiring educator leads school to top honours in STEM

Griffith University STEM education specialist Dr Harry Kanasa leads a successful partnership with Benowa State High School.

A partnership with Griffith University’s School of Education has helped a Gold Coast high school become the top performing Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) school in the state.

Dr Harry Kanasa (L) with fellow award recipients from Benowa State High School

Benowa State High School was recently named Queensland’s Outstanding School in STEM at the 2020 Peter Doherty Awards.

Griffith University Dean of Education Professor Donna Pendergast and STEM education specialist Dr Harry Kanasa lead a long-running partnership with Benowa State High School, helping to build an outstanding science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) program.

Dr Kanasa said a cornerstone of the partnership was the STEAM Teacher Education Centre of Excellence (TECE) based at Benowa State High School, which gives pre-service teachers from Griffith mentorship opportunities and professional development.

Another key component of the partnership sees education lecturers from Griffith working with school students and teachers on initiatives like an annual science fair, featuring everything from robotics and drones to computer programming and 3D printing.

“Our partnership isn’t an overnight success story – this award recognises almost a decade of work,” he said.

Dr Kanasa working with school students on the Gold Coast

“It is mutually beneficial – while we’re building teacher capacity, our lecturers and pre-service teachers get to work closely with students in the classroom.

“It’s about showing high school students the real-world context for STEM.

“By relating it back to their lives and issues they face, we’re getting them excited and engaged.”

Benowa State High School science teacher and Griffith alumnus Dr Julien Grignon with some of his students. Photo: Jerad Williams

Benowa science teacher and Griffith University education alumnus Dr Julien Grignon said the school had seen a 15 per cent increase in STEM classes over the past five years thanks to the partnership with Griffith.

“In recent years the school has collaborated heavily with Griffith University with the assistance of Dr Harry Kanasa and Professor Donna Pendergast,” he said.

“This award recognises the incredible efforts of our dedicated team of sciences and mathematics teachers, our partners in the Griffith University School of Education, and all our high achieving students.”

The Peter Doherty Awards for Excellence in STEM Education recognise students, teachers, support officers, schools and education partners who demonstrate an outstanding and innovative contribution to STEM education in Queensland.