ASTA would like to acknowledge and thank Don Hyatt, Founding National Director of ASISW 1983-86, for his efforts to chronicle the historical details of Australian Science In Schools Week.
The annual event that we all know as National Science Week was established in 1997 as a program of Inspiring Australia, a national strategy for getting Australians engaged with the sciences.
However, many years before this, ASTA conceived of a bold idea for an annual national schools-based science event, which would come to be called Australian Science In Schools Week (ASISW). From this, ASTA also began production of our annual Resource Book of ideas.
It began in July 1983, when ASTA President Brenton Honeyman and Secretary Kevin Kee, approached Don Hyatt, Science Education Officer at CSIRO and ASTA Councillor, to develop an initiative to celebrate Australian science in schools throughout the country. With no budget and a very broad scope, Don set about developing a program that would take more than a year to crystallise.
The inaugural program in 1984 allowed students to participate in a diverse range of science investigations and events that were devised and written by members of ASTA. Pre-dating the advent of the world wide web, ASISW was promoted by the ASTA Board and the state and territory science teachers associations (STAs) via telephone calls and snail mail.
ASTA held a competition for students to design the ASISW logo. The winning design (above) came from Iain Robertson of Christies Beach High School, in South Australia, who received a book prize, ASISW T-shirt and a badge.
In the first year ASISW had a handful of sponsors, including CSIRO Science Education Centres in Melbourne and Adelaide, Lego, BHP, CRA and Heinemann Publishing.
After Don Hyatt handed over the reins to a new ASISW team in 1988, the program continued until 1997. Through this time, ASISW was managed solely by ASTA as a schools-based event, and this precursor to National Science Week engaged with hundreds of thousands of students, in thousands of schools, across Australia.
Today, National Science Week has grown to include all Australians. The strategy was developed with the science sector to provide national leadership, so that partnerships and collaborations could be formed to build on the myriad of science engagement activities across the country. There is an Inspiring Australia Manager in each state and territory to help build local networks and provide year-round science engagement opportunities.
National Science Week is proudly supported by the Australian Government in a variety of ways, including the provision of up to $500,000 for the National Science Week Grants Program and $110,000 for School Grants. Along with ASTA, other partners include the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Extracts taken from Don Hyatt’s 2020 publication, ASISW Memories and Reflections. You can read it in full here: