STEM Teacher Talk 2 with Simon Crook

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.

STEM Teacher Talks 1 with Chris Betcher

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

PBAS STEM 9 – It’s not just about the facilities

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.
  • Providing hands on experiential learning. What is experiential learning?
  • 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?

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.


10 Essential STEM Teaching Practices

Successful students STEM


PBAS STEM 8 – Discussion and feedback week 2 term 1 2017

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:

  1. The need to be creative with our decisions, embrace new technologies and be adventurous in the way we use them.
  2. The need to consider this project from an R-12 perspective.
  3. 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).


Canteen space

  • A Makerspace with a STEM focus –
  • A place where people can come together to use, and learn to use materials as well as develop creative projects.
  • Foster play, exploration and participatory learning.
  • Facilitate learning opportunities where connections between home, school, and community are enabled and encouraged.
  • Collaborative learning where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of teaching and learning.
  • Develop a culture of creating as opposed to consuming.
  • This classroom is for STEM work that does not need access to computers.
  • Resources supporting the teaching of STEM will be stored in this space.
  • It increases the “Makerspaces” we have in the school. The wet area in primary being the other.



  • Can we cater for everyone R-12?
  • What flexible furniture is out there?
  • Needs careful research.

Click on the plans below to access a downloadable version.

STEM Facility Plan Option 2

STEM Facility Plan Option 3

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.
  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?

PBAS STEM 3 – Technologies

In PBAS STEM 1 – What is STEM and what does it look like?  it is clear that while STEM projects can be enhanced by expensive high-level technologies STEM does not have to rely on these technologies to be successful (see the Year 2 STEM project video). The focus of STEM should always be on making connections between STEM subjects, challenging students, testing ideas and creating innovative solutions to real and complex problems. The idea of purchasing a range of expensive technologies and then assuming these make a good STEM program is a mistake. It is important to consider and understand how each piece of technology can support STEM at PBAS. How can it foster curiosity, problem-solving, creativity, trial and error and innovation?

PBAS already has a range of technologies including iPads, MacBooks, CAD, computer suites, robotics, Bee Bots, tech machinery and tools and standard science and maths technologies that have always supported our programs. I have put together a selection of videos that show a range of technologies for us to:

  1. consider developing further, for example, Lego robotics and Bee Bots and
  2. consider purchasing as new technologies to PBAS.

Raspberry Pi

 Raspberry Pi School Projects

Pakuranga College using UPBox 3D Printers 

Roland Stika Printer 

PicoBoards and Scratch 

Creating a gaming console with Picoboard and Scratch

Lego Mindstorm Robotics 

How to create a program – Lego Mindstorm 

Awesome Lego Machines

Using Bee Bots for Numeracy 

Weather Station Kit

Green Screen Kit

Educational Drone Kit

Little Bits Electronics 

Create Chain Reactions 

PBAS STEM 1 – What is STEM and what does it look like?

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is a focus for DECD, see DECD STEM Works and the Federal Government, see Restoring the focus on STEM in schools initiative and Federal government unveils boost for maths and science in schools. It is an area we need to be prepared to develop and inspire our students in.

This is the first in a series of posts that will help us to have discussions about STEM and how we can develop this area at Port Broughton Area School. By the end of 2016 I hope every teacher involved in STEM based subjects R-10 can not only answer the following question but feels confident and supported to implement their answer.

In 2017 what STEM project will I undertake with my students?

So what is STEM?

  • The STEM approach to teaching and learning gives students the opportunity to work on challenging problems and projects.
  • It makes students aware of the connections between science, technology, engineering and maths and the importance of each to successfully solving problems in the real world.
  • It’s about a range of staff collaborating to show students the connections, for example a Year 5/6 STEM project could involve Paul contributing perspectives from maths and science while Tim provides expertise to support students with design and digital technologies.
  • Students experiment, use old and new technologies, test ideas and make and create innovative solutions to real and complex problems.
  • Real depth is given to STEM projects when partnerships are formed with local industries within the community.
  • STEM will look different across every class at every school.
  • Students identify needs and opportunities, visualise and generate ideas, plan and develop solutions and evaluate products and processes.

Information about what STEM is was provided by Jim Goodall, Maitland Area School.

What can STEM look like in the classroom?

Year 2 STEM Project

2015 ACARA STEM Connections Merici College, Canberra

Kings School Student Project

Bee Bot Art Project – This is an adult project but it does not take much imagination to see how this could be applied to a Year 1/2, 3/4 or 5/6 class. Design a piece of art created by Bee Bots!

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.”

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.