Anjali Rao, from field to classroom

Anjali Rao in the Kimberley.jpg

Image: Anjali Rao on the BushBlitz TeachLive field trip in the Kimberley

Anjali Rao: primary specialist science teacher, NSW

Professional career  

I began my teaching career in Auckland, New Zealand, teaching Senior Biology and Science. I was also Year Adviser for Year 12 during that time. After moving to Australia in 2005, I taught as a casual teacher before setting up an extra-curricular science club in the Castle Cove Public School, NSW. The club proved extremely popular, with parents queuing up to book places in the club each term!

I now teach science from Years 2 to 6 at the school and am responsible for all programs including extension programs, incursions, excursions and extra curricular competitions. I coordinate our school’s environmental team and, along with other colleagues, manage our many environmental initiatives such as Waste Free Wednesdays, Carbon Cops, a whole-school compost bin system and our student environmental group, Earth Kids. The Earth Kids maintain two vegetable gardens in the school as well as doing a weekly rubbish clean up of the playground.

For the past three years, I have organised an annual community Science event called Science Under the Stars for National Science Week. The event, which attracts over 200 visitors, features talks by scientists, hands-on activities and demonstrations by senior students, an exhibition of student work in Science from across all grades, telescope sessions and more. I coordinate our school's involvement in the Scientist in Schools program and work closely with our Scientist in Schools to plan talks, workshops and other activities. Our present Scientist in School is Dr. Iain Collings from Macquarie University, and we have previously worked with Dr. Tracey Rogers from UNSW. My students regularly enter the Young Scientists Awards competition, and we have had particular success for the last three years.

How did you get into teaching sustainability?

I have always had an interest in science since I was a young girl. I was inspired by the work of people like Jane Goodall, the primatologist who works in the field of wildlife conservation and ecology. I completed a Masters degree in Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida for which I conducted original research on small mammal communities in tropical forests in India.  I got involved in conservation education while volunteering at Auckland Zoo. This led finally to training to be a secondary science teacher.

I began teaching science because I wanted to introduce young children to the wonder of the natural world and to help them develop the skills necessary to gain a deeper understanding of how it works. I often tell my students that nature is more complex and more beautiful than anything we can imagine, and when we study it in an organised and systematic manner, we are able to appreciate it even more. A deep interest in biodiversity conservation and a concern for the future of our planet underpins all my teaching. 


I was privileged to be given the opportunity to participate in BushBlitz Teachlive in 2014. I was one of five teachers to accompany and assist a team of scientists conducting biodiversity surveys in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. While I was in the Kimberley, my students participated in lessons that reflected the work I was doing and I also ‘taught live’ from there via a daily blog and updates on my website. I wrote about my experiences on Bushblitz for the Teaching Science journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) and also presented at An Evening with BushBlitz at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, November 2014. 

I have worked closely with colleagues to develop units of work in science as well as cross-curricular units that integrate science outcomes with literacy and creative arts outcomes. I have organised incursions and excursions with the Field of Mars EEC (Environmental Education Centre) such as Digital Woodlands and Documentary, which link environmental education outcomes with ICT and technology outcomes. I have mentored and guided pre-service teachers in teaching science lessons during their internship. I am a committee member and judge for the Young Scientists Awards Competition of the Science Teachers Association of NSW (STANSW).


My advice for new teachers is to approach teaching with enthusiasm and knowledge. Don't underestimate how much young minds are capable of understanding and integrating – resist dumbing down science.

Make it real by providing links to the real world through the environment. Provide students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, and demonstrate to them that they can make a difference in their world. Support their enthusiasm and desire to apply their knowledge and understanding in practical ways – allow them to run fundraisers for conservation projects or look for citizen science initiatives they can get involved in.


View Anjali's case studies: exploring renewable energy, and investigating biodiversity and adaptations