Duke of Edinburgh Award News

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is an internationally recognised award that invites young people aged 14-25 to realise their ambitions and to change their world. Run in over 130 countries, the Duke of Ed is designed over three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. To achieve each level, young people create their own unique program of activities over a set length of time across four Sections:

  • Service
  • Skill
  • Physical Recreation
  • Adventurous Journey

Young people challenge themselves by choosing activities that spark their interest in each Section and setting their own goals. The Duke of Ed is about individual choice; young people tailor their Award and develop their career aspirations as they forge skills that go beyond academic success.

An exciting component of the award is the ‘Adventurous Journey’ which can either take the form of a journey or an exploration. In April we featured an article on a group of students who undertook a section of the Great Ocean Walk as a Silver/Gold practice journey. In the article below, Year 10 student, Caitlin Howley, describes her 5 day ‘exploration’ of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Caitlin is currently working towards achieving her Bronze Award. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Caitlin at the Murdoch Institute half way through her program and was impressed by the wealth of experience she had already gained. As part of the Duke of Edinburgh requirements, Caitlin also had to organise all meals and accommodation near the Institute and this provided the added experience of living independently. Caitlin writes the following about her week:

Established in 1986, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute is the largest child health research institute in Australia and is based at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

I attended a week (20 – 24 June) of work experience at the MCRI. Although this was a work experience program, I also have another work experience placement arranged at a different place later in the year. Therefore, I was able to use my week at the MCRI for the ‘Adventurous Journey’ component of my Duke of Edinburgh Award. This component of the award requires participants to challenge themselves through the experience of learning more about the wider environment. I fulfilled this requirement by learning about the research conducted at the MCRI.

On the Monday, we had an introduction to the MCRI and a tour of the building. My highlight of the day was viewing cells through a microscope worth $700,000!

From Tuesday till Thursday I participated in hands-on research group placements with another work experience student. We spent time with a different research group each day.

Our first placement was with the research group Neurodevelopmental Genomics. The group is currently researching mutations that occur in the genes linked to Rett Syndrome. This syndrome is the second most common cause of intellectual disability in females after Down Syndrome. We were able to visit the PC1 Cell Culture Lab where a research scientist ‘fed’ some cells which were being cultivated for experiments. 

On Wednesday my partner and I worked with the Respiratory Diseases Research Group. We participated in various lung tests at the RCH’s Respiratory Clinic. These tests assist patients by assessing the efficiency of the lungs.   

On Thursday, we were with the Developmental Imaging Research Group. We looked at some MRIs of the brain using special software. The research of this group focuses on conditions such as epilepsy.

On Friday, we had a tour of the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services. In the afternoon, we participated in a simulation workshop at the RCH and gave a presentation about our week at the MCRI. 

This week gave me invaluable insight, not only into the work and research conducted at the MCRI, but also into the career of a medical researcher. I realised that, although I do not specifically know what career I am striving towards, my week at the MCRI has confirmed that I will follow a career in the medical research sector. It was incredible to be able to observe the passion and dedication that all the staff shared, whether they be researchers, scientists or even administrative staff. Before my time at the MCRI, I knew that I wanted a career in medical science/research but was not really aware of the diversity of work and research in that area. Spending time with individual research groups really opened my eyes to the diversity and range of research. I now know that I may want to follow a career in neuroscience/neuropsychology where I could work on research projects or maybe even work in epigenetics which is an area I didn’t even know existed prior to this week. This week has also allowed me to become more independent and has made me realise what it will be like for me physically to enter a new work environment on my own. I realise that the environment at the MCRI is perfect for me as everyone at the MCRI was accepting and accommodating.

by Caitlin Howley, Year 10

I congratulate Caitlin on her initiative in organising this wonderful learning opportunity and I encourage other students to think big when organising their Adventurous Journey component of their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

By Anne Bortolussi – Secondary Music Teacher

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