At SMGS, we are preparing our students for current and future global communities, where emerging 21st century skills and thinking will be essential to thrive. It is no longer enough to pass on information to students; we must be teaching and inspiring students with what they can do with the information, equipped with advanced thinking and analytical skills.

Year 11 student, Sarah Ryan, has taken these skills and applied them to her Design and Technology project, by exploring one of her biggest passions, Chemistry. Sarah created a book that acts as a study guide for herself and her classmates.

Sarah used a multi-disciplined approach to compile the book’s contents and to ensure the end result would be useful for varying types of learners, which she explains below.

SMGS’ Design and Technology  teacher, Mr Perry O’Connor, was proud of Sarah’s efforts and tenacity, calling upon a multitude of 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, information literacy, initiative, productivity and leadership. Mr O’Connor explained this by saying, “Sarah truly exhibited the full pedagogical philosophy of Design and Technology that incorporates both project-based learning with the inquiry process to project manage, collaborate and communicate her goals through the creation of an outstanding design project. Her book, a Chemistry study guide for students, is an excellent example of a student’s ability to use the design process and develop the skills required, along with expert advice, to create a truly beneficial product for the education community, both locally and abroad. Sarah is to be congratulated on her efforts in producing a high quality product.”

We caught up with Sarah to ask her a few questions about the process of creating her book, and her inspiration and reasoning for choosing this avenue for her DT project.

Can you explain why you chose to create a Chemistry book for your DT project?

Chemistry is a passion of mine and I really enjoy it, and I wanted to incorporate it into my DT work. I thought that writing a book would be a great way to do this, as even though I enjoy the subject, there are still many things I need to learn. After discussing a few topics with the Chemistry class, we identified a few key concepts that we didn’t all understand, and this led to the information contained in the book. The jokes were also born in the classroom when we had a Chemistry ‘pun-off’ one day.

You covered parts of the periodic table; how long did this project take you?

The project was about six months in the making and took many re-writes. I was originally considering doing all 118 elements, but as this book was directed at senior secondary students, these weren’t all required, so then I decided to do the first 36, but I found out that we only needed to know electron configurations for the first 20 elements, so that is what I decided to have in my book.

What was your favourite part?

My favourite part was researching all the information about the atoms and I learned so much. I really enjoyed writing the fun facts and especially the Chemistry puns/jokes.

What part was the most challenging?

The theory behind the project and the portfolio detailing the journey was very challenging, as there are many aspects to cover. The folio includes design briefs, time plan, action plan, finance plan, market research, proof of creativity and an evaluation. It was a lot of work.

You also painted each element. Have you always painted using watercolours?

I have very rarely done anything artistic, so it was definitely a new experience. Thankfully, Mrs Witherdin (SMGS’ Visual Arts teacher) was a massive help and inspiration. I did end up using watercolour pencils instead of watercolour paints, as you have more control.

When the book was completed, what do you feel was the biggest outcome for you?

The finished product was the best outcome – to have all of your hard work condensed down into a physical book felt so good. I felt proud and accomplished.

In the book you created layers in a number of interdisciplinary subjects (Art, DT, Chemistry, Mathematics). What was your inspiration to create a book that brought together these subjects?

I believe that no subject is ever just ‘that’ subject and I wanted to show this. By merging multiple subjects, they can be more easily understood by a larger range of people. By incorporating Art, visual learners have a better chance of understanding Chemistry, and because a large percentage of the population are visual learners (approx. 70%), I am catering to a larger number of people.

Were there any teachers or mentors who helped you with the creation of the book? If so, who and why?

Dr Nelson – just by teaching my Chemistry class and helping me learn the topics I needed to understand for the book was a great help.

Mrs Witherdin was my mentor and helped me in all the creative aspects of the book. She taught me how to use watercolours and different methods of watercolouring. She also helped me create a basic layout for each page of my book and helped me with colour choices.

Mr O’Connor – my DT teacher helped me with my folio.

Do you have any advice for classmates or younger students about putting together a project such as this?

  • Don’t give up.

  • Believe in yourself.

  • Do it your way.

  • Don’t leave it until the last minute. Books are hard and I’d be lying if I told you this was an easy project.

  • Try to get as much assistance and feedback as you can.