PBAS STEM 6 – DECD STEM Learning Strategy 2017 to 2020

DECD have just released their STEM strategy for the next three years. Below are some of the key points from the document.
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  1. “We know that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills and knowledge.” Hon Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development
  2. “It is imperative that South Australian STEM education provides every student with the chance to develop the capabilities they will need, as our future innovators and problem-solvers.” Hon Susan Close MP Minister for Education and Child Development
  3. The economic case for STEM is clear. Between 2006 and 2011 in Australia, the number of people in positions requiring STEM qualifications grew 1.5 times faster than all other occupation groups.
  4. There is a growing need for the broad skills that are fostered through STEM education: “critical thinking and problem-solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical ‘survival skills’ in the workplace of the future.”
  5. The South Australian Government has invested $250m to provide new infrastructure for 139 schools to improve STEM learning in modern, flexible spaces.
  6. All South Australians, regardless of where they live, should have access to the opportunities of the future.
  7. By 2020 there will be 500 primary teachers with a STEM specialisation.
  8. Preschool leaders and teachers will have access to new STEM teaching resources from 2017.
  9. South Australian teachers will use a new approach to learning design, assessment and moderation for STEM education from 2017.
  10. Professional learning resources will be available from 2017.
  11. A ‘STEM play’ initiative will be established within all DECD preschools from 2017 to 2020.
  12. All schools with secondary enrolments will have a STEM career strategy, linked to local primary schools and supported by links with business and industry as appropriate.
  13. All schools and preschools will have a STEM learning focus.
  14. 5% increase in the number of students who participate in SACE Stage 1 and Stage 2 STEM subjects.
  15. All schools with year 1 to 10 enrolments use the new Standard of Educational Achievement (SEA) to measure STEM subject achievement and inform practice.

This is only a selection of the points made in the DECD strategy paper. To read the full document click here.

Where is PBAS heading for the remainder of this year and into 2017?

  1. Joelene and Allan are attending a STEM conference this term run by the South Australian Science Teachers Association.
  2. I am attending the Area Schools Conference which will have a STEM focus including school visits on Monday week 6 this term.
  3. Kelly, Sarah and Tresia are attending “Little Bang Discovery Club” training this term with the aim of running STEM based activities for preschool aged children.
  4. Major redevelopment of existing spaces to support the teaching of STEM will continue in 2017. Current proposals have been put on hold to allow for further research and a deeper understanding of how we can best provide for our students.
  5. The Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum achievement standards and content descriptors are being matched with supporting technologies that will help teachers address the achievement standard. This document will be shared with relevant staff before the end of term 4.
  6. In 2017 teachers will be expected to develop STEM based projects in their classrooms.
  7. While we are looking to improve the delivery of STEM at PBAS there are plenty of activities that we currently do that support STEM. The following are some examples of what I have seen happening:
    1. Year 6 students participated in the primary science challenge in Port Pirie coming equal first.
    2. Year 7/8 English students using an iPad, iMovie and green screen technology to create a 60 Minutes interview.
    3. Year 5/6 students creating solar powered vehicles in design technologies.
    4. Year 1/2 students programming Bee Bots to solve simple problems.
    5. Year 3/4 students undertaking a maths and the Olympics project.
    6. The Reception Year 1 class have propagated their own vegetable garden.
It is important that we begin to consider how we will further support learning and engagement in the sciences, math and technology based subjects. What will our contribution be?

iPads in Maths and Science

During this term Tanya Hacket has introduced the iPads as a tool to support and engage students in Maths and Science. Tanya has kindly written an explanation of her use of the iPad in the classroom (see below) explaining the benefits she has found when using this tool. Tanya’s use of the iPads can be viewed through the Learning Design framework as a strategy that engages, challenges and supports students with their learning.

ipad-airConcepts relating to fractions has been an area where students have really struggled to fully understand. Gaining a good understanding requires a combination of visual and physical activities and plenty of repetition. This term both the year 7 and 8 math groups have covered fractions, so prior to starting the units I explored the many different apps that were available. I found Pizza Fractions 3 was great for showing the concept of equivalent fractions using visual images. Zombie Math Force was a fun way to show the link between fractions, decimals and percentages while with Equivalent Fractions students created another two equivalent fractions to the one shown. The year 7 students had access to these apps for one lesson per week over the unit. When assessing this unit, all of the year 7 students were able to create equivalent fractions.

In the year 8 group are several students who have low numeracy skills. Using several basic number apps including one with a multiplication tables focus (Multiply Wiz) the iPad is helping them to improve their skills with number. 

Unfortunately I have not found many suitable apps for my Science lessons (if anyone would like to share some great Science apps in the comments that would be great). However, recently I used the camera and notes feature on the iPads in one of my lessons. The focus of the lesson was Classification and using dichotomous keys to identify invertebrates. Two years ago when I designed this task, students found bugs in the yard, drew sketches of them and wrote about the location and features of the bug. While I still wanted students to sketch the bugs, instead of taking paper and pencil outside, they each had an iPad. Students took photographs of the bugs they found using the iPad camera app and recorded their location in the notes app. Once back in the room, students swapped photographs using AirDrop (an great function allowing files to be shared wirelessly between iPads) giving them access to a wider range of bugs. They drew sketches of the bugs using the photographs, without having to worry about the moth flying away or trying to see the ant. By using the iPads, students achieved in one lesson what had previously taken two lessons.

Next term when I will be teaching algebra concepts I have found several apps which I hope will help students understand equations using the arcade game format which will make the repetition needed challenging, but fun.

Tanya Hacket, Port Broughton Area School

Students comments about using the iPads included:

“It helps you learn more about fractions, helps you to understand. It is good there is a choice of apps. I don’t have to learn just one way.” Nash, Year 7

“The apps help you understand what you did wrong. It is an easier way to focus on the maths. It helped me focus on the topic and was easier to work out were I was at and what I was doing than a text book.” Jared, Year 7

This is a great example of using technology in a way that is not focused on the technology but focused on the learning. It is engaging and challenging students while supporting their classroom learning. The iPads are easily accessible, the students using the iPads can work with the whole class (not away in a computer suite) and they are increasing the efficiency of work flow in the classroom.

What is S.T.E.M.?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. As part of Aaron’s work with the Trade Schools for the Future he is currently coordinating the involvement of 13 sites and 35 students in the STEM career network which is a partnership between Trade Schools for the Future and Uni SA. Two students from Port Broughton, Tiana Tattersall and Connor George have been accepted into his program so if you see them you may want to congratulate them on their acceptance.

“With 75% of the fastest growing careers requiring STEM qualifications, no other skill set does more to increase the employability of school leavers and no other sets of qualifications do more to broaden opportunities for young people. The 2014 S.T.E.M. Careers Network aims to provide Year 10 students with exposure to these careers before they make choices critical to their career pathway.” http://stemalive.edublogs.org/

One of the projects the STEM students are involved in is the launching of a balloon powered space craft (Wilkins 1) 35km above the earths surface which will then drop back to earth measuring all sorts of data including weather, air temperature, air pressure, oxygen levels and UV light. A video camera will also capture the fall back to earth. This is being funded by UniSAConnect and its scientists and Aaron has worked closely with them allowing the STEM students to be a part of this project. In term 2 week 2 students will be going down to Mawson Lakes to build the sensors and assemble the craft ready for launch in week 9. This is an amazing opportunity for Tiana and Connor and something that will broaden their knowledge, understandings and skills in the STEM areas.

If you would like to visit Aaron’s blog set up for the STEM project click here.

Below is the countdown clock for Wilkins 1 the balloon that is being sent up by the Uni SA team.