ACU has a proud tradition of giving back to the community, which is shared by staff as well as students. One such staff member is Dr Monica Wong, Lecturer in Mathematics Education at ACU’s Strathfield Campus, who was awarded the 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Staff Award for Outstanding Community Engagement.
Dr Wong has introduced mathematics clubs at three Sydney primary schools. We spoke to Dr Wong about her project and why giving back is so important.
What is your project about and how did it get started?
The project started in 2014 at La Perouse Public School. Quite a few of the children were falling behind, and needed extra assistance. One of the teachers there, Beverley Park, met with Catherine O’Donnell, the Associate Director of Equity Pathways at ACU, about starting a club, and luckily Equity Pathways were able to provide some funding. The project provides a mutual benefit, because we can send our Community Engagement students [from ACU] there, so it works very well.
Children at one of the maths clubs at La Perouse Public School. (Source: Dr Monica Wong)
In 2015 we started a club at another school, Holy Family Primary School in Emerton, and this year we started another at Condell Park Public School.
We like to involve the parents in the maths clubs. We have afternoon teas and the parents come in, and the kids can show their parents what they are learning – the level of excitement the kids have is fantastic.
Dr Wong at Condell Park Public School. (Source: Dr Monica Wong)
In addition to the maths clubs, we have a ‘Meet the Professor Day’, which lets the kids see there is a pathway from primary school to high school to university. We also bring them in to ACU to do some activities. They did a Harry Potter-themed court activity in the Moot Court, and they went to the nursing labs and learnt how to wash their hands before treating patients. We also talk to them about the course and study needed to get to different careers.
How many people are involved in the program?
Across the three years we’ve been running, we have we have 14 ACU students involved in the maths clubs, which has helped 113 children.
What do you hope to achieve with the program?
We hope to get the parents involved. There are only six hours a day of learning at school, and we want to get the parents interested in what the kids are learning in their maths classes, to keep them interested outside of class time.
We also want to build on the initial partnerships, and want to start holding workshops so parents can learn some of the maths themselves
And of course, we want to get kids interested in maths, and make them not fearful of it when they go to high school. We try and encourage all kids, and if they look like they’re not interested we try and get them engaged. The Community Engagement volunteers will try and build the students perseverance and determination, so they keep at it
(Source: Dr Monica Wong)
What does receiving a Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Award for Outstanding Community Engagement mean to you?
It’s great to have recognition of the work that we have all been doing – unfortunately this is in individual award, but it is shared with everyone who has contributed to it. It’s recognition of the whole program – the collaboration between ACU Equity Pathways and the schools, to provide better outcomes for their students.
Why do you think giving back is important?
It builds the future – we set the foundation in primary school and the journey [for the students] through high school and university will be easier.