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Most 83-year-olds would be content to put
up their feet and enjoy their ‘twilight’ years
at a more relaxed pace.
Not so Keith Rendell, who was awarded
an Order of Australia Medal in this year’s
Australia Day Honours, in recognition of his
service to the northern community.
Besides being involved with numerous
community organisations over many years
– including as a charter member of the
Modbury Rotary Club since its inception
in 1982 – Keith also finds time to volunteer
at St Francis Xavier’s Regional Catholic
School at Wynn Vale.
Since 2005 he and his wife Marion have
spent their Tuesdays at the school, helping
students in the Learning Assistance
What makes their service even more
commendable is that they actually have
no ties to the school – their children and
grandchildren didn’t attend there and they
just chose to volunteer because it is close
to where they live.
“I love working with children,” is Keith’s
simple answer as to why he decided to
spend the past decade giving his time to
Since 1999 he has also been volunteering
at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital
supporting the play therapists, helping
children to recover through activities such
as crafts, puzzles, board games and simply
reading with them.
“To be beaten at chess by a seven year old
can quickly bring you down to earth from
a feeling of invincibility! If you think you’ve
got problems, you just need to see these
youngsters and what they’re going through
and it really puts things into perspective,”
The spritely former electronics engineer
also coached an U6 soccer team at Tea
Tree Gully for a number of years – “until
they got too fast for me and I couldn’t keep
And his love of conservation sees him
volunteering for Bushcare, looking after a
two hectare block of beautiful native plants
in the foothills, and as a Friend of Anstey
Hill where he has been an active member
Between 2000 and 2008 Keith undertook
to arrange and run fundraising quiz nights
for local bona-fide groups and charities at
no charge to the organisation. He would
nominate a charity of his choice and would
request that 10 percent of gross profits
be forwarded to that charity. Eventually
the reach of technology and access to
mobile phones meant that quiz nights
were won by the table with the best grasp
of technology rather than accumulated
general knowledge and quiz nights were no
longer a “fun” activity for him.
As for his OAM, Keith said he was humbled
to be recognised and admitted it was very
difficult to keep the nomination secret from
his four children and 12 grandchildren.
Naturally, he didn’t want them finding out
about his award from someone else, so
on Australia Day he and Marion got up at
5am, purchased half a dozen copies of The
Advertiser, delivered them to the doorsteps
of their children and then sent a group text
alerting them to check the paper.
“Then we drove home and went back to
Certainly not the actions of the average
octogenarian – but as everyone who knows
Keith will tell you, he’s not the run-of-the-
Ignatius Early Years and St Joseph’s
Memorial Preschool are the first two sites
in South Australia to be certified through a
new program aimed at developing young
children’s skills in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The Little Scientists program involves
building children’s curiosity through
age-appropriate, fun and playful
experiments. The program also supports
and encourages teachers and educators
to implement STEM ideas and concepts
while exploring together with their children.
“We are committed to STEM education
in the early years. All of our pre-schools
having a strong focus in this area,” said
Tina Adamo, Early Childhood Advisor for
Catholic Education South Australia (CESA).
“It was exciting to see two of our schools
acknowledged for excellence in STEM
Minister for Education and Training Simon
Birmingham and Minister for Industry,
Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne
joined representatives from Little Scientists
Australia, CESA and members of the local
school communities at an award ceremony
on February 5.
“When we were given the opportunity to
participate in the Little Scientists initiative
a new door opened and the children
rushed through,” said Gail Mantel, director
of St Joseph’s Memorial Preschool.
“Their immersion in science was obvious
to us all. The depth of theories and the
engagement in tasks is incredible.”
“The Little Scientist program is not about
pushing a school curriculum down into
the early years and preschool years,”
added Rosemary Allen, Director, Ignatius
Early Years. “It recognises the significant
competence and interests of young
“Our intention is not for children to repeat
back to us loads of scientific knowledge
but to find the science investigations a
positive, joyful experience.
“Children are very curious about natural
phenomena. They love animals and
insects, the garden and mud, the sandpit,
the water and the direction in moves in the
creek and down plugholes and drainpipes.
Children love bubbles and puddles, the
weather and movement – swinging,
pushing and rolling and making things go
“They will ask questions, they will ‘play’
with ideas and concepts; they will share
their theories with us and with their
classmates. They will test and retest their
Nurturing budding young scientists
LAP of honour for volunteer
HELPING HAND: Keith Rendell working with a student at St Francis Xavier’s
School at Wynn Vale.
By Lindy McNamara
CURIOUS: Students from Ignatius Early Years and St Joseph’s Memorial Preschool demonstrate their interest in science at the
launch of the new Little Scientists program.
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