STEM in Primary

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

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Why focus on STE(A)M?

Stuff this week - Why focus on STE(A)M?

STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Often it is expanded to STEAM with the A standing for Arts. The acknowlegement of the importance of the Arts is two fold I believe. Firstly, there is a natural degree of creativity in any STEM related activity and it is important to recognise this directly. Secondly, the proponents of STE(A)M education are not suggesting that these fields of study are intrinsically more important than the arts or humanities indeed you can't have one without the other. Sir Ken Robinson gave a fantastic Ted Talk titled “How to escape education’s death valley” in which he challenged everyone to value the skills and desires of every student no matter what their field of endeavour.
Having said that there are students who enjoy learning about the STEM subjects that need to be supported. Furthermore, there is a strong and growing view that the modern technological age needs a population that have strong STEM skills. In my previous two blog posts I concentrated on the area of Technology but this is not more or less important than the other fields.
In 2015 Australia’s Chief Scientist published a position paper titled “Transforming STEM teaching in Australian primary schools: everybody's business”. In that paper it was argued that countries such as Australia will only prosper economically in the future through STEM. This is because across the world, nations will be competing for the high-growth technology firms and highly capable workers of the future who will have strong STEM skills. The paper states that “The vision for Australia must include an education system that expects and achieves a high level of student achievement, mastery, enjoyment and innovation in science, technology and mathematics…”

Also in 2015 PwC produced a report titled  “A Smart Move”. In it PwC suggests that up to 44% of existing jobs (5.1 million) will be lost due to “digital disruption”. This is not exactly new as we can all think of many jobs that have disappeared over the last 30 years but the pace of technological change suggests that the rate that jobs will disappear will increase. New jobs will be created of course, however they will be in the technical and creative fields. Salman Khan who created the “Khan Academy” was asked to give his thoughts on how education will look in the future. He also suggests that the breakdown of job types will change as shown in the following graphic.

The Government of Australia agrees with these assessments and has signalled its determination to act by restoring the focus on science and mathematics in the curriculum. In December 2015 a “National STEM School Education Strategy” was agreed upon by all Australian Education Ministers. The first guiding principle from that strategy is “Create a school culture where the importance of STEM is recognised and valued, and there are high expectations for all students to engage with STEM education opportunities.”
So there is no question that action is required. The challenge is to identify what exactly should be done and how to upskill the teachers to enable it.
Next week I will talk about how globally STEM has come to mean more than just a simplistic focus on the STEM subjects and has become a metaphor for the significant improvements in the education system which are required to provide our children with the skills they will need in the world of the future.
Do you agree that there should there be a focus on STEM in primary school? Can such a shift bring about better outcomes for students and the country?

Stuff in the news

Explainer: STEM, and what it means to Australia's education system Article from The Age newspaper 5 January 2017.

New report shows need for greater STEM focus Article from The Educator website 18 January 2017

Why STEM Education Is Important For Everyone Article from Science Pioneers website

Chinese parents mired by hefty costs for tech-focused education Article from China News Website 28 December 2016

90s TV show The Magic School Bus is being rebooted by Netflix and will focus on STEM education

Stuff to buy

Best STEM Books List - The National Science Teachers Association of America has produced an inaugural list of books for all ages. My girls are fans of Hello Ruby and there are lots more!
Extraordinaires Design Studio -  A creative thinking game for problem solvers. If you've ever wondered what it's like to invent a music player for a robot, a remote control for a pirate, or cooking utensil for a vampire teen, this is definitely the game for you.
Goldie Blox - Through the integration of storytelling and STEM principles, GoldieBlox creates toys, books, apps, videos, animation and merchandise; the tools that empower girls to build their confidence and dreams.
*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

The following are a series of three articles written by Jane Hunter who is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at UTS and is conducting postdoctoral research in STEM.

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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