STEM in Primary

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

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Exemplar Schools

Stuff this week - Exemplar Schools

Each of the following schools are exemplary in their own way. However, they are similar in their decision to adopt new and innovative practices and demonstrate a commitment to do so in a methodical, transparent and considered way.
In the USA there are schools which specialise in a variety of areas, STEM being one such area. Benton STEM Elementary School has a promotional video which showcases the school and their commitment to providing a rich STEM education for primary school children. It is instructional as it shows how STEM can be integrated into all subjects and how a school has embraced the goal of teaching the children important life skills. An even more impressive showcase video is the one for STEM Magnet Lab School in Colorado. It shows how STEM can be integrated into everything (even music), how it can be done from as early as prep and how subjects should not be studied in isolation. 
Whilst Australia does not have a STEM school approval process if a school did want to restyle themselves in this way there are frameworks in the USA which could be used. The Indiana Department of Education has a wealth of information including a four level implementation matrix which gives a great basis for evaluating where a school sits currently with STEM education and where the end goal might be. Whilst Australia has no specialist STEM primary schools that I am aware of there has been reporting of plans to establish a high school in Sydney and there are also specialist high schools such as the Queensland Academy - Science, Mathematics and Technology in Brisbane and the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide. Either of these could be useful partner in any journey to improve STEM outcomes.
Despite the lack of STEM specialist schools there are many schools challenging the status quo and embarking on a variety of improvement programs including some that are quite ambitious. What is common is a commitment to developing a well considered and transparent plan. St Patrick's College in Gympie has rolled out a 1:1 laptop program and their college technology plan and vision shows a clear understanding for the need to properly plan for a device roll out and their commitment to having a series of goals with criteria to assess success or failure.
Even more impressive is Templestowe College which has shifted their teaching practices to specialise in personalised learning. Following falling enrolments that threatened the school's viability they embarked on an ambitious plan that has delivered dividends. Their annual implementation plan is a text book example of SMART goals. There is a clear statement of the goal, who is responsible for the goal and how success will be measured. This shows that it is possible for schools that have the will to do great things and that a robust process is so important.
The above examples are not provided to suggest schools need to completely change all that they are doing indeed for most this would be foolish. What it is suggesting however is that if a change is envisioned then proper planning is essential. This is true regardless of whether the school is considering introducing education technology to supplement traditional teaching or completely overhauling their teaching methodologies. As I linked above there are frameworks for schools wanting to specialise in STEM and there are also many guides for introducing a 1:1 device program. These also show the way for everything else in between as what is needed is what I emphasised last week; proper planning which results in SMART goals.
Is your school developing SMART goals to support their significant changes? Is the parent body being engaged in the process?

Stuff in the news

Project-Based Learning Pro Amanda Robertson Earns Milken Educator Award - A year 4 maths teacher successfully uses problem based learning in her classroom
Is it full STEAM ahead for the curriculum? - An article from EducationHQ Australia 20 October 2016 discussing the debate around STEM vs STEAM
Editorial: Why STEM matters -  An article from Tasmania's Mercury Newspaper 12 February 2017

Stuff to buy

Tech Age Kids Blog runs through Coding Toys for Kids - What's New for 2017
*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

How to get your school ready for STEM this year - An article from 20 August 2013
Ed-Tech Skeptic Larry Cuban Finds New Perspective - An article from Education Week 12 February 2017
Futures Learning - Futures Learning is an initiative of @NSWEducation reforms to innovate learning & teaching in all public schools

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

The Luminarium Festival - Fun and illuminating workshops and events for children aged 5-13. Wizarding World Weekend is on 4-5 March 2017
World Science Festival Brisbane - 22 - 26 March 2017. Dr Karl for Kids is a FREE event in the South Bank Piazza on 25 March.
Whats happening at the Queensland Museum during World Science Week - Loggerhead turtle hatching! Taxidermy and Street Science!
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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Brisbane Planetarium - Features entertaining and informative shows for adults and children
Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane

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