EDfutures Catalyst: Suzy Urbaniak

Suzy Urbaniak, CoRE Coordinator/Earth and Environmental Science Educator

Suzy graduated with honours from ANU in 1988 and started work as a geologist in the Great Sandy Desert, WA at the Telfer Gold Mine. She transitioned into the classroom, teaching science and promoting geoscience literacy, in 2004. Suzy maintains her industry networks and her role as Chair of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, WA Branch, helps promote this association.

In 2016, Suzy won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. She was featured on SBS program “A Teacher Changed My Life” in 2017 and in 2018, was among 14 women inducted in to the WA Women’s  Hall of Fame. Most recently, she was featured on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes to discuss NAPLAN and the importance of having fun in the classroom.

She has received national and international recognition for the CoRE (Centre of Resources Excellence) model she developed at Kent Street Senior High School.

Hi Suzy! Tell us a bit about yourself.

“My name is Suzy and I love rocks and climbing volcanoes in my spare time! I did not want to be a teacher, but a personal situation of forced change meant that I had no other choice than to enter into education to support my three sons and myself. Since moving into the classroom, I believe I have successfully married my two passions of geology and the Earth with education.

I have developed the CoRE (Center of Resources Excellence) learning model based on my own experiences as an industry trained geologist combined with the need to produce home grown talent to service our resources industry. I developed #therealclassroom based on CARMA (Contextual, Authentic, Relevant, Meaningful and Applicable) learning which is an extension of my industry experiences – I was STEMming long before the STEM acronym was adopted and infiltrated into the community. I brought industry into the classroom and took the students out into the real world to meet with industry personnel. For me, it was about the relevance, purpose and meaning of learning and how it applied to potential career pathways; more specifically, the resources industry.”

What’s your teaching-learning philosophy?

“My teaching-learning philosophy is founded on two principles; the first being derived from my observations and experiences as a 21 year old when I started my journey as a geologist. I stood in that costean at Telfer Gold Mine and looked at it and thought to myself, ‘Why did I go to school?’. I knew all the theory about South African and Siberian geology, but I didn’t know how to be a scientist, I didn’t know how to be a geologist.

When I embarked on my teaching career and went back into the classroom, I noted that nothing had changed! What I saw was not science! Science is doing, science is being creative, it is about thinking, problem solving, investigating and inquiring; it is not about text books, worksheets and arbitrary tests! Secondly, as an Eastern States migrant, I noted that in the resources industry, very few (a small %) of employees within the professional areas came from Western Australia. Why, in a resources hot spot of the world, were students not aware of resources career pathways and the opportunities that they presented? From these observations, the CoRE prototype evolved and 13 years later, it is on the cusp of being expanded across the state.”

Tell us some more about CoRE; how did it come about?

“The CoRE philosophy is based on connecting industry, community, education and government (state and federal) to meet the needs of a sustainable future workforce for the resources industry in Australia. The resources industry is an innovator; to continue as a leading industry sector in the 21st century (and beyond), it needs individuals who have ‘4th industrial revolution’ social, emotional and technological skills. Individuals need to be adaptable, open-minded, collaborative and flexible. They have to be team players and motivated individuals whose diverse backgrounds, knowledge and skills can turn challenging situations into solutions. At the foundation to CoRE are the development of these personal attributes: self-esteem, self-belief and the ability to take risks. Failure and fear are embraced and mistakes become positive experiences.

Working collaboratively in business units, students are focussed on delivering unit components in a real world context, using project-based learning. All  team members have a role in ensuring that the chosen project is delivered in a timely manner, with the final product being presented at a town hall meeting. In CoRE, students become leaders, managers, coding specialists, young scientists, media presenters and fit break organisers who, for six periods a week, are expected to work both independently and collaboratively to time manage and organise the completion of the project. The students are ‘going to work.’

CoRE is a form of integrated STEAM education and the Western Australian science curriculum forms its knowledge and skill base. In a CoRE classroom, students have the opportunity to understand how their learning applies to real world and, more importantly, to potential career paths. Students are given the chance to showcase their diverse talents and intelligences across a spectrum of activities. There are able to demonstrate a realistic level of achievement and success.

CoRE works! It has an extensive network of alumni who are now active, engaged employees of WA’s resources industry. They are testament to its philosophy and vision.”

EDfutures Community Night: Mapping the System

In this session, facilitated by Matt Norman, we’ll discuss what systems mapping can do for you, and start to build a map of the education system in our city, state, nation and world. Maps like these can help us to understand the role that every sector needs to play in making change, and bring up some great questions about the infrastructure we need to make system-wide collaborative approaches possible.

WHEN: September 19th 2018, 5.30 – 8.30pm

WHERE: Lotteries House, City West

WHY: Community nights are an opportunity for us to welcome new members and a create some energy and understanding around EDfutures. Each community night will focus on a different theme.


Matt Norman

Matt is an education enthusiast exploring ways to develop future-ready and equitable learning systems. He currently works as a recruiter for Teach For Australia and has 4 years of experience running performance workshops with young people. Matt’s biggest questions right now are about experimenting with the design of learning experiences, and about crafting a collective narrative to drive change in education.

Connect with Matt @m_j_norman

Harvard’s Project Zero – Critical and Creative Thinking

Put the General Capabilities into action with global educational leader Mark Church from Harvard’s Project Zero. This event is a half day workshop where participants will explore how making thinking visible and thinking routines can support students developing their critical and creative thinking skills.

Mark Church

Mark Church works with educators throughout the world striving to create cultures of thinking in their classrooms and schools.

Mark challenges teachers to foster thinking dispositions in students in service of deep understanding. He invites teachers to promote a discourse of thinking in their classrooms that communicates value for student sense-making. Mark encourages teachers to make their classroom environments rich with the documents of student thinking processes.

Mark is currently a consultant with Harvard Project Zero’s Making Thinking Visible and Cultures of Thinking initiatives worldwide, drawing upon his own classroom teaching experience and from the perspectives he has gained working with educators throughout North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. Mark enjoys helping teachers examine opportunities for student thoughtfulness, use thinking routines as supports and scaffolds, interact with students in ways that demonstrate interest in and respect for students’ thinking, and send clear expectations about the importance and value of thinking in learning.

Together with Ron Ritchhart and Karin Morrison, Mark is co-author of the book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

Founded by philosopher Nelson Goodman at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1967, Project Zero began with a focus on understanding learning in and through the arts. Over the years, PZ has continued their inquiry into the arts and arts education, while drawing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to examine fundamental questions of human expression and development. PZ research endeavors are marked by a passion for the big questions, a passion for the conceptual, a passion for the interdisciplinary, a passion for the full range of human development, and a passion for the arts.

Today Project Zero is an intellectual wellspring, nourishing inquiry into the complexity of human potentials – intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, ethics – and exploring sustainable ways to support them across multiple and diverse contexts. Anchored in the arts and humanities, and with a commitment to melding theory and practice, PZ continues to work towards a more enlightened educational process and system that prepares learners well for the world that they will live, work and develop in.


Schools of Thinking was born of a shared belief in the power of paying attention to students’ thinking to facilitate deeper learning, understanding and connection to knowledge. SoT seek to build upon and share the passion of educators for innovative practice leading to powerful opportunities for students by:

SoT was founded by a group of dedicated teachers and school administrators. They are a not-for-profit organisation, and board members work on a voluntary basis to run events, write blogs, create resources and advocate for innovative curricula in the hope of inspiring other teachers to put students’ thinking at the forefront of their daily practice.