First-time entrants dominate high school science competition

Dow AgroSciences Territory Manger, Rosanna Common with Madeline Kinsley and Taylor Olsen – two of the five Glasshouse Country Christian College students who won the Dow AgroSciences “Heaviest Sunflower” in their age group at UQ’s Sunflower Competition.

A team of passionate Year 11 students from the newly-introduced agricultural science program at Glasshouse Country Christian College in Beerwah, QLD won the Dow AgroSciences "Heaviest Sunflower" category (year 11 & 12) in the University of Queensland's annual Sunflower Competition, last week.

In fact, Glasshouse Country Christian College took out first, second and third place in the category, with flowers weighing in at 2.928 kg, 2.676 kg, and 2.595 kg, respectively, beating a number of other teams to sweep the category.

"This is the first year our school has had an agricultural science program, and I am really proud of the passion it has sparked in our students," said Jade King, Senior Agricultural Science Teacher and founder of the new program at Glasshouse College. "We initially registered for the competition as a fun project to reinforce plant biology lessons, but as the students measured and observed their sunflowers from week to week, they developed a hunger for knowledge and got really into the project."

Over three months, from February until weigh in day on 20 May, the student teams cared for their plants during class and took the initiative on their own to investigate different feeding and care methodologies, even turning to the local community for information.

"The students were given free rein to research and feed their plants, and they really took the task to heart, visiting local farmers, co-ops and fruit vendors to gather information on best practices for our soil type and climate," Jade said.

After thorough investigation, the students used a combination of fertilizer, seaweed solution and liquid potash for overall health and lucerne mulch to keep the moisture in.

Rosanna Common, Territory Manager for Dow AgroSciences was on hand at the weigh in day and saw firsthand how the program helps young people see that agricultural science can be interesting and challenging.

"Hands-on educational programs inspire students and prepare the next generation of scientists and producers," Rosanna said. "The Glasshouse College team did remarkably well, especially considering the students have only been recently introduced to the complexities of agriculture and agricultural science. Competitions like this really ignite students' interest."

Coming off their win, the students have a sense of accomplishment and renewed vigor that seems to have spread throughout the Glasshouse Country Christian College.

"The passion of my current students for the ag science program has also inspired younger students as we're receiving requests every day to open the program to Year Nines," Jade said. "They come to me and say, ‘I want to do this – I want to be an ag scientist'."

"I can't express how proud of my students I am. I became a teacher so I could share my passion for agricultural science with young people and they've embraced it more than I could have imagined."