This post highlights some of the resources and approaches being taken by the NSW Education Department in the area of STEM. Click on the links provided to be taken to a variety of resources including: planning for STEM (primary & secondary settings), how schools are embedding STEM, Maitland Grossmann High School’s iSTEM curriculum (now used in over 135 schools in NSW), STEM resources page and STEM in industry (agriculture).
What thinking is required to plan for and implement STEM in schools? STEM learning experiences involve explicit learning and teaching of syllabus content which is applied in project, problem or inquiry-based learning situations that are authentic and contextual.
The Stage 3 Integrated STEM Project involves teachers from 35 schools working either as individual schools or communities of schools. Schools will document their journey in STEM education, highlighting their processes for embedding STEM in their school culture and in classroom teaching and learning practices.
The Stage 4 Integrated STEM Project promotes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Stage4. Teachers engaged in cross-curriculum planning with a major focus on aligning syllabus outcomes, promoting higher order thinking through authentic project-based tasks.
In 2013 Regional Development Australia – Hunter’s ME Program Director Dr Scott Sleap, in collaboration with local industry and STEM teachers at Maitland Grossmann High School developed the iSTEM curriculum. iSTEM is a student centred subject for students in Years 9 and 10 that delivers Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in an integrated way.
This page also provides resources associated with the iSTEM program including syllabus documents.
This video is taken from the Splash ABC website. Listen to Zeina Chalich answer teacher questions about STEM.
“Zeina has teaching experience in primary schools and university. In her role as Leader of Learning & Innovation, Zeina leads ‘disruptive’ change in digital pedagogy and personalised learning. In 2015, Zeina was awarded the CEC Br John Taylor Fellowship research prize for her research exploring design thinking in a makerspace through a STEAM curriculum. Zeina writes for the Website Education Technology Solutions.“
This video is taken from the Splash ABC website. Listen to Kelly Tagalan answer teacher questions about STEM.
“Kelly is a California native who came to Australia as a tourist, then decided to make it her new home. A year later, she helped a plucky do-gooder Annie Parker of Telstra, start Code Club Australia.
Kelly worked in non-profit education for ten years before coming to Australia. Through Code Club, Kelly hopes to build a vibrant and buzzing enthusiasm for ICT education among educators and children alike.
This video is taken from the Splash ABC website. Listen to Simon Crook answer teacher questions about STEM.
“Simon Crook was a physics teacher for 15 years, in 5 different schools in England and Australia. Subsequently, for over 6 years Simon worked as Senior eLearning Adviser for the Catholic Education Office Sydney having direct responsibility for the integration of technology in the teaching and learning of 17 secondary schools plus an overarching responsibility to 151 schools K-12 across Sydney, Australia. He was also seconded to help design 21st Century Science laboratories. Simon also runs an award winning website Crooked Science.
This video is taken from the Splash ABC website. Listen to Chris Betcher answer teacher questions about STEM.
“Chris is an Australian K-12 educator with over 25 years experience in helping students and teachers make the most of digital technologies for learning. Chris has been nominated for the edublog awards on several occasions for his educational blog betchablog“
A lot of money is being spent to develop STEM in South Australian schools. But after all is said and done these resources (considering their cost) will not fully support student learning if teacher practice does not also develop.
Improved student learning opportunities in STEM will come from teachers feeling confident about their knowledge and understanding of STEM and their understanding and use of pedagogical practices that are effective in the teaching of STEM.
Teaching practice associated with quality STEM learning includes:
Allowing some control to be given to students, increasing student input and responsibility. Read this article for ideas about how to do this.
Promoting collaboration with peers, community and industry. To find out more about collaboration in the classroom read this article.
Promoting risk taking, experimentation and learning from failure. This is not just for students, teachers should model these qualities for their students. To find out more about failure in the STEM classroom read this article.
Teachers need to be flexible. STEM may not always address the Curriculum in the way a text book or traditionally planned program might. You may need to change direction mid program depending on where student investigations lead them (it may not be where you thought it might go).
Guided inquiry. Teachers develop the skills of facilitating rather than dictating. Students need to be able to independently think and act like engineers through research, trial and error. For a more detailed look at inquiry based learning read this article.
Teachers need to embrace digital tools and technology in the classroom. Find ways to make technology work for you and your students. Learn about the SAMR model of technology use by watching this two minute video.
Another important consideration for schools is to think about how STEM programs are structured in classrooms. What are the potential models that a school or teacher might consider?
Teach all four but more emphasis on one or two: A teacher integrates mathematics and science through a challenge based unit of work where students design a vehicle. Source
Integrate one into the other 3 being taught separately: The engineering processes of team work, identify and investigate a problem, design a solution, and testing and evaluation is added into some science and mathematics units, but there are limited links across the science and mathematics subjects.Source
Total integration of all by a teacher: Science teacher integrating, T, E and M into science. A school introduces a new STEM elective focusing on designing digital solutions to real world problems. Source
Divide a STEM curriculum into the separate subjects: Technology, science and maths teachers design a combined unit and each teacher teaches different components of the unit in their separate subject, and with clear contributions from science, maths and technology subjects in solving a common problem. Source
Leaders and teachers have a joint responsibility to ensure that appropriate pedagogy is used in all areas of teaching. If we do not develop our teaching strategies and develop a strong knowledge and understanding of STEM then we risk spending a lot of money for little reward.
I have tried to include everyone’s thoughts from our discussion at this weeks staff meeting. I have also drawn up a new plan (Option 3 see below) based on ideas staff put forward.
When considering how to move forward with this project I think we need to remember three key things:
The need to be creative with our decisions, embrace new technologies and be adventurous in the way we use them.
The need to consider this project from an R-12 perspective.
The need to understand that this project is only a part of teaching STEM at PBAS. We have many other areas within the school where STEM can be and is being taught.
While there is a lot of information here and we are all time poor I encourage you to thoroughly read through the feedback and consider the questions posed throughout the post. If you leave it up to others you risk not having your voice heard. Any further feedback in the comments section of this post would be most welcome.
Feedback from staff meeting week 2 term 1
STEM Redevelopment Plan – Option 1 has been removed.
STEM Redevelopment Plan – Option 3 has been added (see below)
Computer suite 2 OR Laptops? (still undecided – no majority staff agreement on this)
Some staff want computer suite 2 to stay where it is. If this happens where will the year 12 room be?
I believe you can comfortably get 23 PCs in the current computer suite 2 (currently 18 plus 1 teacher PC). 23 might allow it to be accessible to more classes. For example the 5/6s have 23 students.
If we keep it then it would need the same upgrading as computer suite 1 during the redevelopment, which will significantly increase costs, but worth it if we are keeping it.
Remove computer suite 2 to make it a Year 12 room. Invest in a secure laptop cart and 26 laptops.
If the laptops were successful with years 5-8 that would further free up computer suite 1.
Suggestion made to investigate the Surface Pro, which is a mix of a tablet and laptop.
Suggestion made for Chromebooks.
Year 12 Room
Suggestion made that Year 12s would be better placed in current computer suite 2. Windows allow staff walking by to keep a closer eye on students working. Block external/internal? door to stop traffic coming through. At least two groups agreed with this.
Music room is next door. The noise (at times) from this room will not be great for encouraging students to study.
Is there another Year 12 room option?
An second door needs to be considered for computer suite 1 for emergencies.
Some staff suggested an exit door into computer suite 1 from the eastern side but this is not possible as the girl’s toilets are in the way.
A second door could possibly be put through to the STEM classroom (see plan Option 3).
Computer suite 1 will remain essentially as is with at least 28 PCs. The only difference is walls have shifted.
Computer suite 1 will accommodate R-6 and secondary classes when required for example Robotics.
Computer suite 2 OR laptop option and 1:1 MacBook program would accommodate 7-12.
Ventilation and airflow from a comfort perspective is an issue in computer suite 1 – need to identify how this can be improved.
This discussion will need to include research about 3D printers and other devices that we may use that can cause potentially harmful fumes. What is required? The latest 3D printers come with their own filtering system. Is this enough?
3D Printers and ….???
What type of 3D printer do we want? 3D Up Box @ $2500? Needs research and discussion.
How many do we get to begin with?
Are they wireless?
Do they need a dedicated PC for each printer?
Do we have a dedicated room or can they sit out in the open?
What other technology do we want? 3D printers, decal printers and laser cutters are ideas.
High end design software like CAD
How many PCs do we need to have this software on them? All of the computers in suite 1? All PCs in the Tech area?
Can more PCs be put in tech so Tim can have half his class working on design portfolios and half working on practical if need be?
The STEM classroom offers potentially 6.5m of storage (the large bank of cupboards in the wet area is 4.8m long and .55m deep). We could make the cupboards in the STEM space up to .8m deep.
The current storerooms off the year 12 room can have their dividing wall removed to create a 1.75m x 7.97m space. It is not very wide and the configuration of shelving or cupboards would need to be considered very carefully.
Green Screen and Photography studio
Can this be moved into the Art room? Shae has already cleared a space where this could go (3.46m x 3.9m). Smaller than the suggestion on Option 2 but useable for a 3m wide green screen kit and still life/portraiture photography. Green screen kit is portable and for certain times could be moved and used in other spaces like the primary POD.
If the photography room moved to Art it would free up space in STEM redevelopment area. It would allow us to have a lockable specialist equipment room in within the STEM redevelopment (see Option 3 below).
DECD have just released their STEM strategy for the next three years. Below are some of the key points from the document.
“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
“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
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.
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.”
The South Australian Government has invested $250m to provide new infrastructure for 139 schools to improve STEM learning in modern, flexible spaces.
All South Australians, regardless of where they live, should have access to the opportunities of the future.
By 2020 there will be 500 primary teachers with a STEM specialisation.
Preschool leaders and teachers will have access to new STEM teaching resources from 2017.
South Australian teachers will use a new approach to learning design, assessment and moderation for STEM education from 2017.
Professional learning resources will be available from 2017.
A ‘STEM play’ initiative will be established within all DECD preschools from 2017 to 2020.
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.
All schools and preschools will have a STEM learning focus.
5% increase in the number of students who participate in SACE Stage 1 and Stage 2 STEM subjects.
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?
Joelene and Allan are attending a STEM conference this term run by the South Australian Science Teachers Association.
I am attending the Area Schools Conference which will have a STEM focus including school visits on Monday week 6 this term.
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.
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.
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.
In 2017 teachers will be expected to develop STEM based projects in their classrooms.
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:
Year 6 students participated in the primary science challenge in Port Pirie coming equal first.
Year 7/8 English students using an iPad, iMovie and green screen technology to create a 60 Minutes interview.
Year 5/6 students creating solar powered vehicles in design technologies.
Year 1/2 students programming Bee Bots to solve simple problems.
Year 3/4 students undertaking a maths and the Olympics project.
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?