With staff and students returning to school in a matter of weeks across Australia, the time has come to begin brainstorming activities for lessons throughout the year. In this article, we take you through some significant themes and events to inspire some upcoming lessons.
It's a big year this year – the Summer Olympics are taking place, the Mars 2020 Rover is due to be launched, and a new yearly focus has been declared by the United Nations. Of course, these are alongside the numerous celebrations unique to Australia, such as NAIDOC Week which will take place from 5–12 July 2020 and will see events held across the country to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Global events and observances
The year 2020 has been declared the United Nations International Year of Plant Health, which the United Nations say is: ‘an opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.'
Organisers have listed a number of ways you can get involved in raising awareness of plant health, and an official activity book designed for educators will be available at their website early this year.
Official resources are also available for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The Olympics Committee have a suite of official classroom resources for educators, including printable activity sheets suitable for primary and secondary students which explore the Olympic themes, symbols and traditions.
Safer Internet Day is another global observance and will be on Tuesday 11 February 2020. Organisers say 150 countries worldwide take part each year, and that the aim for the day is to raise awareness of emerging online issues. Australia's eSafety office has a handful of resources targeted at educators for this day.
National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) is on again this year, set to kick off at 11 am AEST on Wednesday 27 May. NSS involves groups from across the country reading the same book at the same time. This year, the book is Whitney and Britney Chicken Divas, written and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford. You can register to participate at the Australian Library and Information Association's website.
Later on in the year, 22 August to 28 August will be Children's Book Week. This year, their theme is curious creatures, wild minds.
Oxford University Press announced the Australian Children's Word of the Year for 2019 as ‘bravery'. The word was chosen after 400 students submitted a piece of writing about their word of the year. Children referenced climate change, adventure, self-confidence, injustice, trying something new and helping others – which led to the word ‘bravery' being chosen.
National Science Week will be held from 15 to 23 August this year and will have the theme: Deep Blue: innovations for the future of our oceans. Organisers point out that this theme correlates with the establishment of the Blue Economy CRC (Cooperative Research Centre), which will work towards delivering innovative solutions to transform how we're using our oceans.
‘With this in mind,' they say, ‘it will embrace the innovative technologies, capabilities and skills needed to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability of our oceans. It will feature insights and inquiries into workable solutions that generate healthy oceans, healthy economies and healthy communities.'
Participating in National Science Week with students could be a great lead in to next year, the beginning of UNESCO's Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
[Image: © Photobank gallery/Shutterstock]
Another exciting STEM-related event will be the launch of NASA's Mars 2020 Rover which will occur between July and August this year. The mission will have four objectives: to look for habitability, seek biosignatures, collect samples and prepare the planet for future human missions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has put together some student activities related to the launch.
And finally, the STEM Video Game Challenge has announced their theme will be ‘scale' for this year's challenge. The annual challenge invites students in Years 5-12 to create their own original, playable video game either individually or as part of a team. Registrations open soon – on Tuesday 18 February.
Team mentor from 2019, Ben Wynne, documented his experience and top tips for the STEM Video Game Challenge in a video series for Teacher last year – it's a great resource for educators taking their students through the challenge for the first time.
With a colleague, discuss the themes and commemorations occurring this year that you anticipate would fit in well with units you’re teaching. Which of these do you think will be best received by students? Why?
What other events are you planning on acknowledging throughout 2020?