2005 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

Mr Mark Merritt

Mark Merritt believes that primary science teachers have a critical role to play in instilling an enduring enthusiasm for science in their students.

"We need to make sure that future generations move into science research and science education. It's vital that we start in the early years so we can embed in the children a love of science and knowledge," he says.

Mark, who teaches science at the Marmion Primary School in the northern suburbs of Perth, has had a highly successful 21 year career in primary school teaching. He believes his next challenge will lie in teacher education - enthusing the next generation of primary school science teachers.

Mark Merritt's leadership in science teaching, as a primary teacher and as an active member of the Science Teachers Association of Western Australia, has earned him the 2005 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.

Mark believes his interest in science teaching was sparked by his Year 7 teacher. "He allowed us to investigate and explore the world around us, and was one of many teachers to inspire me towards a science teaching career."

The first big career challenge for Mark was as a teacher in charge of science for primary years at the remote Fitzroy Crossing District High School. It taught him different ways to motivate and teach science concepts to a wide variety of ability levels - skills he has applied in a myriad of primary educational settings ranging from metropolitan to country postings.

"Teachers should welcome questions from students and learn not to say, 'I don't know'," he says. "We should be saying, 'Let's find out'." His approach is clearly working for his students. They have been part of a whole school approach to Aboriginal studies - investigating native flora and ways to protect the local environment. The students study and help maintain a block of native bush in the school grounds with guidance from the Aboriginal community.

In his technology class, Mark has also thrown down a daunting challenge to his students. They are required to make games and toys for demanding clients, namely, the school's pre-primary students.

The students demonstrated their science skills in the Western Australia Science Talent Search. One third of the 28 children who took part in the competition won prizes and around 80 per cent of them reached the State finals. Marmion Primary School also won the overall prize for Best Primary School in the Talent Search.

Mark's commitment to science education reaches far beyond the classroom. He is a Council Member of the Science Teachers' Association of Western Australia (STAWA), a National Science Week State Representative and a Primary Science Committee Member.

As a writer and a trial teacher for the new national curriculum resource, Primary Connections - Linking Science with Literacy, Mark is helping teachers to implement new ways of teaching science.

Mark's efforts and achievements have been appreciated by his peers. In 2004 he received the Science Teachers' Association of WA's de Laeter Medal, which is awarded only to a teacher who has demonstrated outstanding classroom practice and made a significant contribution to the profession of science teaching.

"I am committed to excellence in education," Mark says. "All students are individuals and have the potential to learn. As teachers we must rise to the challenge of meeting the differing needs of our students. By sharing my vision and expertise, I hope to make a difference to staff, students and parents in their own quest for educational excellence."

Autobiographical details

  • 1963 - Born in Singapore
  • 1980-1983 - Diploma of Teaching (Major in Science, Minor in Science and Junior Primary), Western Australian College of Advanced Education
  • 1988 - B.Ed, Western Australian College of Advanced Education
  • 1988 - Teacher's Higher Certificate, Education Department of Western Australia
  • 1984 - Doubleview Primary School
  • 1984 - North Tom Price Primary School
  • 1985-1986 - Fitzroy Crossing District High School
  • 1987-1988 - Mirrabooka Primary School
  • 1989 - Camberwarra Primary School
  • 1990-1991 - Craigie Primary School
  • 1992 - Teacher, relieving Deputy Principal, West Kambalda Primary School
  • 1992 - Teacher, relieving Deputy Principal, Wanneroo Junior Primary School
  • 1993-1997 - Glengarry Primary School
  • 1998 - Acting Curriculum Improvement Officer Science, Perth Education District Office
  • 1999-2000 - Lymburner Primary School
  • 2001 - Bambara Primary School
  • 2002 - North Beach Primary School
  • 2003-present - Marmion Primary School. Other duties including Science Learning Area curriculum leader, Science Support teacher K-7
  • 2004-2005 - Council Member responsible for Student Activities, STAWA
  • 2004-2005 - Edith Cowan University Primary Science Education Tutor/Mentor

Career Highlights

  • 2004 - The de Laeter Medal for outstanding contribution to science teaching, Science Teachers' Association of W.A.
  • 2004 - Nominated for the Western Australian Premier's "Teacher of the Year Award"
  • 2003 - Inaugural Western Australian Premier's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching - Primary
  • 2003 - National Excellence in Teaching Awards - nomination by Marmion Primary School parents.

Teaching Contributions

  • STAWA Council Member, Primary Science Committee Member.
  • National Science Week State Representative for ASTA (Australian Science Teachers' Association).
  • Trial Teacher for the "Primary Connections - Linking Science with Literacy" initiative being developed by the
  • Australian Academy of Science and the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training.
  • Member of the Curriculum Writing Team for the "Investigate This!" STAWA publication.
  • Contributor to the "Learning Objects Case Studies" resource.
  • SCITECH multimedia Soundhouse Advisory Group.
  • Western Power Channel 9 "Weather Watch CD project" Reference Group.
  • Course designer and presenter of STAWA professional development workshops.
  • Technology and Enterprise State Conference Presenter.
  • Perth Education District professional development workshops in the area of science.
  • Member of the Australian College of Educators.
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