Full STEM ahead…

As of April 2019, there is no single universal body, at a state or federal level, responsible for supplying or developing Australian schools with a definitive STEM related curriculum. This has led to teachers within schools having to create their own STEM programs, doing their best to embed the subject matter into their daily curriculum. This poses many challenges, as teaching the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as interconnected and interrelated subjects, isn’t an easy endeavor. However, it can be done and it can be done well.

Every Tuesday at Berwick Lodge Primary School, an enthusiastic group of students from Grade 4, 5 and 6 participate in a weekly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) enrichment learning program with the school’s resident STEM educator George Spiridis, the school’s Leading ICT Teacher Michele Tan and the Multimedia Learning Specialist Rob Kelly (that’s me). 🙂

Every week, the students come to the lessons bursting with enthusiasm, excitement and a willing attitude to learn. Part of the success of the STEM program has been the influx of girls wanting to learn about STEM. Berwick Lodge prides itself on offering safe, inclusive learning spaces for all students. It has therefore been affirming to see more and more girls wanting to participate in the program since its initiation in 2017. Misha from Grade 5 is one of those students. She enjoys learning new concepts and coding strategies to further her understanding of how the world works around her.

“I like to learn new and interesting things and I really enjoy STEM. I am very curious about it. It is like learning a new language…”

The students learn how to use a range of tools to build and create exciting products. From Picaxe micro-controller (which uses the programming language BASIC) to Arduino (another programmable micro- controller which uses C/C++ programming language), the students get a real-world taste for authentic STEM education. Few other primary school students are learning to use such complex hardware and software, but the students at Berwick Lodge are diving in the deep end and the results are very pleasing indeed.

It’s universally agreed that in the next few decades employability will depend heavily on STEM related skills. Therefore, teaching STEM skills to students at an early age can have a positive impact on their future employability. As Jeb from Grade 4 explains…

“It’s easier to soak in new information when you’re younger. The more you know when you’re younger, the more you can understand in the future. STEM is in nearly everything we do and the more we know about it the better…”

Beyond this STEM learning class, the rest of the tеасhеrѕ at Berwick Lodge (including myself) are treating thе adoption оf STEM as раrt оf our weekly lesson рlаnnіng. Tеасhеrѕ wоrkіng tоgеthеr hаvе tremendous роtеntіаl tо reform еduсаtіоn and improve student engagement. From 3D printing and micro-controllers to Lego robotics and Scratch, a world of engaging STEM activities await those wanting to adopt them and subsequently engage students.

STEM educator George Spiridis (with over 26 years of experience in education and a lifetime of experience in engineering) said…

“The students have the opportunity to experience the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through STEM. We hope they will gain some level of knowledge and skill to help them understand the interactions and interconnectivity of these STEM disciplines. We hope they are then able to apply the knowledge and skills they have learnt to further studies. The confirmation of the success of this STEM program came in the form of a comment made to me by one of our students from her astounded uncle (a university lecturer) who was amazed that his niece – in primary school – was understanding university-standard STEM related projects.”

Every dау tеасhеrѕ face сhоісеѕ аbоut how tо іmрlеmеnt thе сurrісulum, promote students agency and engage learning. These choices аrе орроrtunіtіеѕ for tеасhеrѕ to еngаgе in еduсаtіоn rеfоrm thаt hаѕ a real іmрасt on their students. It is why George Spiridis and the teachers at Berwick Lodge Primary School commit themselves to developing an authentic STEM education for their students.

The STEM enrichment program continues to grow every year and it is a program I am very proud to be a part of.

Teaching STEM

When teaching a successful authentic STEM education program/unit, there are a few important steps every teacher/educator needs to remember…