When I was in Year 10, our major school trip was to Hill End - a dusty, ex-gold mining camping spot with a lot of flies and little else. That was it.
Guess where the 18 kids from Kent Street High School in Perth get to go this week? They are going to fly over the South Magnetic Pole. Nope, I'm not bitter. Not bitter at all.
Sponsored by the Laby Foundation of the University of Melbourne, "Classroom Antarctica" is a program designed to educate and excite groups of high school students during the excursions to Antarctica. These flying 12-hour excursions are run by a company that charters Qantas Boeing 747-400 aircraft a few times a year from Australian capital cities, non-stop to Antarctica and back.
As if that wasn't enough, their accompanying teacher is awesome too - Ms Suzy Urbaniak, who received the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools last year, and there's PhD candidates from The University of Western Australia and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) going along for the risde.
"The science in my classroom is all about inquiry and investigation—giving the students the freedom to develop their own investigations," said Ms Urbaniak.
"From the windows of this flying classroom, my students will gain a unique understanding of the science responsible for the beauty and natural wonders of the seventh continent."
During the 12 hour round trip, PhD candidates Sarah Bruzzese and David Gozzard will recreate several classical experiments to detect cosmic rays and measure the Earth’s magnetic field as they approach the South Magnetic Pole.
Sarah Bruzzese, whose PhD thesis involved analysing newly formed stars in galaxies using the Hubble Space Telescope, said, "It's great to be chosen for something like this - I'm really excited about the chance to show science in action for these students and to see Antarctica for myself."
Ms Bruzzese, whose doctorate degree will be conferred in the near future, is now a secondary teacher at St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls.
"As a PhD student with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research I had lots of opportunities to deliver outreach and education programs to schools and communities throughout WA," she said.
"I love sharing my passion for science with others which is why I’ve decided to become a high school teacher."
David Gozzard, from UWA's School of Physics, thesis involves designing systems that will help the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) synchronise the vast amounts of information it will gather from the sky once the radio telescope is built in Western Australia and South Africa in the next decade.
"This is the first time this flight has left from Perth so it’s great to be a part of something that will give local high school students a hands-on experience above one of the most remote locations on Earth," said Mr Gozzard.
"At UWA I'm working on solutions that will allow the biggest radio telescope in the world to solve some of the biggest mysteries in the Universe," he said.
"Hopefully some of the students I meet on this flight will go on to become scientists and engineers involved with the SKA in the future, who knows".