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A new health learning experience for Sydney high school students

LifeLab Sydney debuts at the Charles Perkins Centre.

SydneyConnect Video: LifeLab Sydney excursion at the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney

Students from Concord High School, Alexandra Park Community School, Wiley Park Girls High School, and Newtown High School of the Performing Arts have taken part in the LifeLab Sydney pilot, culminating in a full day of investigation, understanding and new experiences at the Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney.

“Having all these students coming together and being inspired by science and their health and their understanding of their health is such an extraordinary opportunity. It’s getting the message out and really engaging the kids,” Professor Stephen Simpson AC, Charles Perkins Centre Academic Director, said. 

LifeLab Sydney teaches students to look at health through a scientific lens to positively impact health behaviours, while also encouraging science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career pathways. 

The first of its kind in Australia and funded by Sydney Local Health District, the term-long education initiative includes modules that are incorporated into the Year 8 science curriculum and consists of enquiry-based learning in health-related areas such as diet and nutrition. 

The day excursion at Charles Perkins Centre included hands on learning through a physio ‘health circuit’  and exploring the concept of epigenetics by extracting DNA and gel electrophoresis in the ‘X-Lab’ – Charles Perkins Centre’s high-tech wet laboratory.

“I learnt that the things you do now and when you are young really affect what happens when you’re older,” Jacob a Concord High School student, said. 

Several District research staff participated in ‘Meet the scientists’ sessions, helping students to understand the role of scientists in the field. 

“I was really impressed by the learning energy with each group of students,”  Dr Genevieve Coorey, from Tobacco Control in the District’s Health Promotion Unit, said. 

Her research speciality involves efforts to protect adolescents from the harms of e-cigarettes and vapes, and the harms from nicotine.

“I found the students to be curious because it’s a topic familiar to them, the context was relatable and I was able to talk to them about how important it is to get reliable health information to make decisions,” she said. 

To wrap up the session students were asked to identify an area of their own lifestyle to improve and to take a ‘health pledge.’ 

“[The] stand out for me is the eagerness of those young scientists and future clinicians, getting right into it and learning for themselves,” Eva Breidenbach, the LifeLab Program Manager, said.

LifeLab Sydney from the Sydney Institute for Women, Children and their Families has been developed closely with LifeLab UK and adopted to the Australian context and NSW school curriculum. The program provides science teachers with health-related content and is delivered in collaboration and with    support from the Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney. 

Parents or teachers interested in engaging LifeLab for their school can contact LifeLab Program Manager Eva Breidenbach at eva.breidenbach@health.nsw.gov.au