Activities for High Schools

Scienza Viva is a program developed to actively engage students in the process of science.

It's very much ‘Learning by Doing’, with a real scientist combining genuine learning with first hand experience of the scientific method. The activities are both relevant and motivating.

Scienza Viva brings "hands on" scientific activities to primary and high schools, that are directly related to the school syllabus.

All materials, instruments and teachers' notes are provided. We provide a set of detailed work notes for students about a week before, for copying and distribution by the school.

What activities do we offer?

Forensic Flying Squad, for Stage 4
Life at a Small Scale - Microorganisms, for Stage 4
Power Up, for Stage 4
Body Works, for Stages 4 & 5
Marine Environment and Pollution, for Stage 4 and 5
Soil and Water- biotic and abiotic features, for Stages 4,5 & 6
Aussie Fish Tales, for Stages 4,5 & 6
Enzymes in Orange Juice, for HSC Biology
Other biological or chemistry based activities
Costs and conditions

Body Works.
This station run practical is related to human structure and function. During this practical the students take their blood pressures, listen to their heart beat, determine their BMI, measure their lung capacity and check their breath for carbon dioxide, identify animal skulls, determine their salt threshold and look at mechanisms of perception. These practical activities will help to provide students with an understanding of humans as self regulating multicellular organisms and provide background to the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and skeletal systems.

Suitable for Stages 4 & 5. One hour, $8.00 per student, minimum invoice $240.

Power Up.
Complements Stage 4.6 of the syllabus in the application of electrical energy. This is a station run practical session. It is an exploration of ways of obtaining electricity from mechanical and chemical sources and from direct conversion of other sources of energy, such as light. In addition, a number of activities show how electricity can be usefully controlled and directed.
Includes: electrostatic charge, batteries, solar power, electric motors, electromagnetism, conductivity, series and parallel circuit, electronic circuits.

Suitable for Stage 4. One hour, $8.00 per student, minimum invoice $240.

Soil and Water- biotic and abiotic features.
Students rotate around the laboratory through ten station activities.

These station activities may include:

- A video microscope to look at structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.
- Observing adaptations of centipedes and millipedes to a predatory existence and to detrital feeding respectively using a dissecting microscope.
- Keying out live compost invertebrates and/or comparing the biodiversity of invertebrates in a compost sample with a non-compost sample.
- Searching for live decomposers and predators in a soil sample and working out the relationship to food chains/webs.
- Keying out live freshwater aquatic invertebrates. By using the information provided determining how tolerant the invertebrate is to different water quality conditions.
- Following the life cycle of the brineshrimp and their adaptations to a difficult saline environment using microscopy.
- Observing live marine invertebrates looking at structure and function and adaptations to the harsh marine environment.
- Measuring several standard water quality parameters including pH (comparison of a few methods), phosphate, carbonate, temperature and salinity.
- Accurate volume measurement is a necessity – students can compare methods for accuracy.
For stage 4 syllabus; the activity relates to producers, consumers and decomposers in Australian ecosystems and how they are related using food chains and webs. For stage 5 and 6 it relates to human impacts on the biotic and abiotic features of the environment and helps give a clear understanding of the role of decomposers in ecosystems.

Suitable for stages 4 , 5 & 6. One hour. $8.00/student, minimum invoice $240.

Forensic Flying Squad.
Students will be given a crime to solve (The murder of the Entomologist, Professor Henry Slugg).
They will be led through a series of activities (at 9 different stations) that will allow them to gather information using a number of hands on techniques.
They will have to make judgements as to which evidence is important in solving the crime. They will test various materials relevant to the crime by using microscopy, chemistry, chromatography, physical measurements, and examination of trace evidence.
This will allow them to draw conclusions that will solve the crime.
The students conduct an investigation, accumulate, evaluate and communicate the information gathered. They draw conclusions based on the information collected and in so doing develop scientific thinking and problem solving skills. This activity complements 4.14-4.23 of the syllabus outcomes.

Suitable for stage 4; one hour to 90 minutes, $8.00/student, minimum invoice $240.

Enzymes in orange juice.

A hands on experiment directly related to the Year 11 Module 1 Outcome BIO11-8, as well as the Working Scientifically Outcomes BIO11/12-3, BIO11/12-4 AND BIO11/12-5. Students will look at the activity of the enzyme pectin methyl esterase from orange juice in relation to temperature, change in pH, and substrate concentration.

    Not only does this demonstrate the activity of an enzyme in an interesting and accessible manner, it is a real world example of a commercially important analysis in food quality. 

    (Stage 6 Biology, one to one and a half hours $8.00/student, minimum cost $240).

Aussie Fish tales.
Students will rotate around several stations where they will:

- Examine adaptations of the introduced fish Gambusia holbrooki make it a successful competitor to our native fish. The damage done by this adaptable introduced pest has resulted in its listing as a Key Threatening Process affecting the quality of the aquatic environment. Observe live specimens of G. holbrooki and familiarise themselves with them. Then compare them to one or two small native fish species
- Work out the theoretical number of young produced by the exotic G. holbrooki compared to native species
- Measure water quality. Water quality has a strong influence on the type of fish to be found in a waterway. Feral species are often more tolerant of poor water quality. Students will conduct tests for different water quality parameters and determine, by information provided whether the water conditions favour native and or feral species.
- Use microscopy to observe the development of different stages of live native fish eggs. Native fish are egglayers and are at a disadvantage compared to G. holbrooki which is a live bearer and can breed far more rapidly.
- Identify as many invertebrates as possible in a river water sample and assess whether they are predators or prey organisms for fish.

Relates to stage 4 syllabus, describing the adaptations of living things to factors in their environment. Relates to stage 5 syllabus, describing the impacts of human activities on ecosystems. Relates to Stage 6, identifying the most appropriate equipment to undertake an investigation. 

This was the area in which Effie earned her doctorate and she would like to share her enthusiasm for this field with keen young science students.

Availability: This activity can only run during September to April, as it relies on the availability of live fish eggs.

This activity suits Stages 4,5 & 6, runs for approx. one hour. Cost $8.00/ student. Because of the complexity involved in preparing for this activity, we have a minimum invoice cost of $720, equivalent to three class groups.

Life at a Small Scale - Microorganisms.
Students use microscopy and other methods of magnification to examine live organisms like nitella, euglena, microworms, vinegar eels, brineshrimp, pond life and stick insect eggs. Students will be able to distinguish between unicellular and multicellular organisms.
Students also assemble a simplified model of the van Leeuwenhoek microscope, which they keep.
A challenging activity, developed to complement Outcomes 4.8, A student describes features of living things (specifically 4.8.1a,d; 4.8.2a; 4.8.3a,b) and Outcome 4.1 (The history of science).

This activity suits Stage 4, and runs for one hour. Cost $8.00 per student. Because of the complexity involved in preparing for this activity, we have a minimum invoice cost of $720, equivalent to three class groups.

Marine Environment and Pollution.
A station based activity examining the adaptations of some marine creatures and the effects of pollutants such as plastics on the marine environments. Up to nine stations may be selected from the list below:
-Filtration - Coarse Filtration and Microfiltration
-Oil pollution
-Specific gravity and salinity, and heat pollution
-Nitrate and ammonia pollution
-Plastics Pollution
-Marine invertebrates found on the rock platform
-Seahorses and their relatives
-Keying out and identifying marine invertebrates
-Video microscope examination of marine invertebrates
-Life cycles in e.g. Brineshrimp, Axolotl
-Carbon dioxide in the marine environment
-pH measurement

Suitable for Stage 4 and 5, supporting Values and Attitudes Outcomes SC4-1VA, SC5-1VA, SC5-2VA and SC5-3VA, as well as Knowledge and Understanding Outcomes SC4-13ES, SC5-13ESand SC5-15LW.
One hour, $8.00 per student. Because of the complexity involved in preparing for this activity, we have a minimum invoice cost of $720, equivalent to three class groups.

Other biological or chemistry based activities.
Contact Effie if you have any special requirements for different activities. 

Costs and Conditions - Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area
The cost of activities is $8.00 per student.
Minimum invoice cost for a single session is $240.
Three activities, Life at a Small Scale, Aussie Fish Tales and Marine Environment and Pollution, have a minimum booking of three sessions and a minimum invoice cost of$720.

Costs and Conditions - Outside the Sydney Metropolitan Area:

Activity costs per student are as for the Sydney Metropolitan Area, but we may incur extra travel and accommodation costs, depending on your location.
We prefer to waive these travelling and transport costs, if enough students are booked to make this possible. I would be happy to discuss ways to do this, for example, by organising a combined visit to more than one school. If the number of students is close to the minimum that would support our visit, we may also ask the school to agree to a guaranteed minimum attendance, which is effectively the minimum invoice cost. Above this amount we charge only for the number of students attending the activity.


Payment is due at the conclusion of the activity on the day of the booking or within 7 days of the activity.
There is NO GST payable.

What is the group size for the activities?

Scienza Viva hands-on activities are designed for class groups of about 30 students.

Who conducts Scienza Viva activities?

Effie Howe BAppSc (Environmental Science), MSc (Physiology), PhD (Fish ecology), GradDipEd (Secondary science).

Effie has over 20 years experience as a working scientist in universities and CSIRO, with publications in aquatic biology, physiology, biochemistry and biotechnology. She has accumulated a broad range of experience in field biology and in laboratory investigation and has been privileged to work in a diverse range of research environments.
As well as bringing these activities to preschools, primary schools and high schools, Effie’s teaching experience includes developing and teaching environmental biology and biology courses at TAFE colleges and Universities.

Chris Howe, BSc (Zoology/Biochemistry), MSc(Med) (Physiology).

Chris has over 20 years experience as a working scientist in biomedical research, in hospitals and universities. Subsequently, he worked for twelve years as a specialist analyst in doping control at the National Measurement Institute in Sydney. He has a deep interest in all areas of science and the communication of science. Chris has presented research in many settings, from schools to international research conferences and has publications in endocrinology, reproductive medicine, cancer research, physiology and doping control.

Please contact Effie or Chris for further information or bookings

Ph 9874 3691; Mobile 0408 460 948 (Effie) or 0448 183 967 (Chris)

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