27 September 2023

School plant contest planted online

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The annual Hermitage Schools Plant Science Competition is to be held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Administrative Officer at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Kerrie Rubie who coordinates the event, said almost 2,000 students from 100 schools across Australia had adapted to the change and were doing their research online for this year’s competition which celebrates the International Year of Plant Health.

“Restrictions for COVID-19 have forced us to cancel the competition’s physical events, including the student plant health workshops and the combined Awards and Agriculture Science Expo Day, but there was overwhelming feedback from schools and parents to keep the competition going,” Ms Rubie said.

“As one teacher pointed out, business is being done via video conferencing from anywhere in the world, and it’s important for students to understand that you must be able to adapt to changing environments.”

She said that by hosting the competition events online there was the potential to reach students who might otherwise have been unable to attend in person due to distance and travel costs.

The Department’s Research Scientist and competition committee member, Barbara George-Jaeggli said this year’s topic of plant health was especially topical due to COVID-19.

“Students may learn that any organism, whether plant, animal or an entire ecosystem, is similar in that it is vulnerable and has defence mechanisms,” Dr George-Jaeggli said.

“We must all adapt and become resilient if we want to survive.”

Ms Rubie said competition entrants from Years Prep to 12 will complete a scientific investigation, design a mind map poster, research plant health in developing countries, create artwork that connects plant health to ocean health, and discover plant pests via the QuestaGame mobile gaming app.

There will also be a student plant health workshop online and a virtual awards day in August, she said.

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