An Interview with Gary Foster, Head of Faculty at Guildford Grammar School

With offers on the table to become a pilot with the Royal Australian Airforce or pursue a career in medicine, Gary Foster's career as a science and astronomy teacher almost didn't happen. After more than three decades in the education industry, Gary Foster continues to inspire and instil a love of science in his students. Currently, he is Head of Faculty at Guildford Grammar School in Western Australia. He has been on three tours to NASA with Educating Adventures.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

After university, I had the opportunity to either become a RAAF F1-11 pilot or pursue a career in medicine. However, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a high school science teacher, so that's what I decided to become. After 37 years of science teaching, I still love my job! Being a teacher is enjoyable and rewarding. Even after all these years, I still learning something new almost every day. What I love most about my job is making science fun, exciting and relevant for my students. I love encouraging my students to ask questions and help them seek answers. Seeing students develop and progress with their learning is the most rewarding part of being a teacher.

Why did you decide to take your students on a trip to NASA?

Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world. I wanted to give students the opportunity to see things related to their science learning at school that they would never be able to see here in Perth. Taking a large group of young students on a trip to the other side of the world is a huge responsibility, so I wanted to use an external agency to help me. I initially chose Educating Adventures because they listened to my ideas and did an excellent job providing advice, feedback and helping me fine tune the itinerary for our Nasa tour. Since then, I have organised to subsequent trips with EA, and I am delighted with the level of service, support and advice they provide. All three of my Nasa trips have been an enormous success.

Was it difficult to get your trip approved?

Getting an international school trip approved and organised is a long process. Firstly, I needed to provide a clear rationale for the tour to justify the learning benefits it was going to offer. It's also important to remember that other teachers might also be competing to get their tour across the line too. Other elements I had to consider when organising my NASA trip were the costs, itinerary, planning timeframes, and emergency or contingency arrangements.

What were your students most excited about for the trip?

Some students were most excited about specific activities like visiting NASA, going to Disneyland, Sea World, or watching an NBA basketball game. For some students, just the opportunity to travel overseas was exciting enough. It's nice to have a variety of experiences on each trip and cater to the interests of all students. It also mixes it up a bit and keeps things fun. For me, I love getting back to see all that is at NASA! I love that place and everything about it. I love the reaction and excitement of the students to all the incredible things they get to see on tour.

Do you think school trips are essential to a child’s education?

I believe school trips are essential to a child's education. I think it broadens their learning, opens their eyes and gives them a much higher perspective in their education and life in general. Tours like NASA help to motivate students in class and provide ideas for career pathways.

What is the most rewarding thing about taking your students on an international trip?

The educational and cultural experiences my students have while travelling abroad is what motivates me to organise our NASA trips. International school trips help broaden my students' life experiences and provide relevance, direction and confidence in their learning. I've had fantastic feedback from parents, students and staff on each of our NASA trips. As a school, we have noticed our NASA trip has encouraged more students into STEM subjects.

What would be your advice for another teacher considering a school trip abroad?

Just do it. Organising an international school trip is a time-consuming process, and the initial planning can be frustrating at times, but the rewards are high. International school trips are a fantastic opportunity for students and staff to develop both professionally and personally. Organising our NASA trips has been one of the most rewarding things I have achieved in my life, and it has significantly enriched my teaching career. I now have a wealth of incredible memories and stories from each of the tours I have attended that I can share with my students and other staff.

- Gary Foster, Teacher, Guildford Grammar, WA

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