Working with Schools

I’m so fortunate to get the opportunity to work with school students and their dedicated teachers using Creative Education. Through my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish I bring the Living Oceans into the classroom and use science, art and creative thinking to engage the students with the wonders of our underwater world. This is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) approach which really engages with the students and teachers as shown by the examples below. My classroom activities are also aligned to the Australian Curriculum focusing on Biological Science, Visual Arts, Humanities and Social Science and Critical and Creative Thinking.

Creative thinking

The focus of my Living Oceans Schools Incursion Program is to use a combination of marine science and visual arts to engage with as many students as possible through CREATIVE thinking. Even though the incursions are tailored to the Australian Curriculum (for Science, Visual Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) and the work plans of the class, the key themes and issues discussed are based on actual research occurring around the marine world. The visual storytelling is also based on my own experiences as a scientist, artitst and policy-maker, which includes real-life situations, scenarios and studies about our Living Oceans. It is my hope that through this creative thinking approach kids will “sea” how our choices and decisions can change the world and through these STEAM-related learning activities they have a range of tools to help in their future decision-making about our Blue Planet.


School Incursions

Our Living Oceans at Exmouth School – 2016

High School

In 2016 Dr Suzie Starfish was invited back to Exmouth District High School to talk about the science and technology of the Ningaloo Outlook project, a strategic research partnership between CSIRO and BHP Billiton in Western Australia, which engaged with approximately 120 students from the primary and high school classes. The schools incursion for the High School students included CREATIVE science talks with the Grades 7s and 8s entitled, “Tag along with the marine megafauna of the Ningaloo Marine Park“.

As part of the Ningaloo Outlook project Dr Suzie Starfish discussed how and why the CSIRO marine research team tags green turtles and whale sharks by explaining the science and technology, megafauna movement and people and parks aspects of this project. The photos below show how the scientists also work with the local community groups, school and Marine Parks to increase the scientific understanding of this marine research — showing real science engagement with outdoor classrooms.

To really engage with the different learning styles of the High School students Dr Suzie Starfish utilised a number of different approaches from handing around marine tags, showing video footage of the tagging process to graphically recording her own talks! This visual storytelling approach is very engaging in the classroom as ‘Drawing is Thinking‘. As you can see from the photo below there was an excited response from the science classes showing creative thinking and STEAM in action!

Testimonial: “Dr Suzie Starfish was fantastic with the students during her visit. She brought out all of the knowledge that the kids have about Ningaloo and the Marine Environment on our doorstep. She also confirmed the environmental protection points which are so important for the students to know“. Mr Bush, Grade 7 teacher, Exmouth District High School

Some great feedback from the Year 7 Science class of Exmouth District High School on Dr Suzie Starfish’s visit!

Primary School

As part of the schools incursion program with Exmouth School Dr Suzie Starfish was honoured to re-visit the Primary School classes of Mr Plummer. Dr Suzie Starfish talked about the science of tagging marine megafauna in Ningaloo and after watching scientists catch, tag and release turtles and tag the biggest shark in the sea (the Whale Shark) the students watched an art demonstration by Dr Suzie Starfish. The resulting ‘Shark Art’ by the Grade 3 and 4 cases at Exmouth School is shown below and what amazing artists and future ocean stewards they are!! Dr Suzie Starfish thanks you for her hand written letters too!! What a fantastic time she had at Exmouth School, she hopes to be back again soon!!

Lot’s of creative thinking and STEAM in action here!!


Wonderful feedback from the Year 3 and 4 classes of Exmouth School about their time with Dr Suzie Starfish!

Our Living Oceans at Exmouth School – 2015

In 2015 Dr Suzie Starfish was invited to spend time with the Grade 3 class of Exmouth District High School, following a marine research trip she did with CSIRO to tag charismatic megafauna in the World Heritage Area of Ningaloo Marine Park. Using a range of interactive techniques including photos, maps, animal tags and real-time research Dr Suzie Starfish discussed the biology and features of the charismatic megafauna of Ningaloo Marine Park, which included creative science stories about Whale Sharks, turtles and reef sharks.


Testimonial: “The students of Year 3 Exmouth District School were inspired after a visit from Dr Suzie Starfish. The insights she shared from her time in the field tagging our own Whale Sharks, Turtles and even Sharks meant we now have some BUZZING and BUDDING marine scientists in class! And the students were extremely proud of the jellyfish artwork they produced with Dr Suzie’s guidance…what a visit!” Mr Lucas Plummer, Year 3 Teacher, Exmouth District High School

Using ART such as painting and collage Dr Suzie Starfish then discussed the biology and features of the jellyfish, a common and well-known marine animal found in all of the worlds oceans. Art allows students to use their imagination and discuss the science behind marine animals in a different setting, a more free and creative environment. As you can see from the fantastic artworks above there are a lot of budding marine art-scientists at Exmouth School!!

*Please note: I have the current Working with Children Blue Cards for both Queensland and Western Australia and all artworks and images are Copyright © 2017 Dr Sue Pillans

to find out how you can have Dr Suzie Starfish in your classroom or group.