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 – http://makerspacesaustralia.weebly.com
  • 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