STEM in Primary

STEM in Primary
A blog for those interested in primary school STEM education

Saturday, 28 January 2017

How to do STEM Properly?

Stuff this week - How to do STEM Properly?

Last week I laid out the views of those that believe STEM education is critical for the nation’s future and the governments initial response.
In the “National STEM School Education Strategy” the introduction makes the point that in 2008 the Education Ministers signed up to the “Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians”. The focus of that declaration was to confirm that literacy and numeracy and knowledge of key disciplines is the cornerstone of schooling for young Australians. It also recognised that schooling should support the development of skills in cross-disciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problem solving and digital technologies, which are essential in all 21st century occupations. These skills have since been included in the Australian Curriculum as either specific subject areas or as General Capabilities.
Interestingly, it is those skills in the last sentence above that STEM education proponents are now focussing on. The view is that it is not good enough to simply devote more time to the STEM subjects. What needs to happen is that these subjects need to be studied in a cross disciplinary way to engage students in real world problem solving and to develop the skills mentioned above. Skills that will prepare kids for a future life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow. Teachers tell me that subjects used to be taught in an integrated manner but for some reason it has moved to a very siloed approach (eg. 9am science, 10am maths etc.). It would appear that the old has become new again!
If teachers can show students how in the real world people use a variety of skills to solve a given problem this will increase engagement as the cry of “I will never need to know this!” should be diminished. One way of achieving this cross disciplinary outcome is through an approach known as “Problem Based Learning” (aka Project Based Learning). I will talk more about this idea in a later blog post but the main point is that STEM Education is not only about increasing the focus on the STEM subjects but also teaching it in such a way that the relevance of these subjects to the real world is emphasised. In doing so kids will learn how to think critically and how to solve problems.
So STEM Education done properly will link STEM across all subjects and engage students in practical real world activities that will require a range of skills to work through. Certainly in my experience of running an extra-curricular STEM program for students from Prep to Year 6 the engagement level will be high!
Next week I will put all this together in the Australian context and show how the Australian Curriculum already has many of these ideas embedded within and thus just requires forward thinking schools to reinvigorate their teaching methods. As Australia’s Chief Scientist wrote, schools need to “Think bold, collaborate and lead change.”

Stuff in the news

Math education needs to start early - An interesting article which covers the idea of how you can bring maths into everyday life.
Rigorous STEM-Centered Curriculum Challenges Students At Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science - An article from Town Topics Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper 4 January 2017.

Stuff to buy

Strawbees - Strawbees is an award-winning prototyping toy for makers of all ages. It is a kit based on simple units called Strawbees that let you connect straws to each other and build little to huge mechanical objects from just straws
Makey Makey - Turn the whole world into a keyboard. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners or Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between.
Lego Boost Robotics - Aimed at kids as young as 7 years old, who are not quite yet ready for LEGO MINDSTORMS, but would like to get into programming. LEGO BOOST is also cooler looking than LEGO WeDo
*At this point in time I earn no money from any product I list and I am not affiliated with any other company.

Stuff in education

Expanding the STEM (or STEAM) Pipeline to Diverse Learners - Presidential award winner Dr. Jaunine Fouché shares strategies for making STEAM education more accessible and engaging
New report outlines ways to support high-quality STEM education - A multidisciplinary group of national leaders in early childhood offers guidance for the development and improvement of effective STEM policies and practices

Stuff to do Australia Wide

Young ICT Explorers -  A non-profit competition, which has been created by SAP to encourage school students to create their best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related projects. Registrations open in February. See the YouTube video here!
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Young Engineers Australia - Provides an engaging, hands-on learning platform using LEGO® and K’nex® assembly kits
CoderDojo - A volunteer run programming club

Stuff to do in Brisbane

World Science Festival Brisbane - 22 - 26 March 2017. Dr Karl for Kids is a FREE event in the South Bank Piazza on 25 March.
The Cube at QUT has a number of changing programs.

Brisbane Library Service has purchased the very flash NAO Robot and is showing it off in various libraries.
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Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane

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