STEM in Primary

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

Saturday, 4 February 2017

STEM in the Australian Curriculum

Stuff this week - How does STEM fit into the Australian Curriculum?

In the past two weeks I have written about why STEM skills are important for the nation and how STEM has come to mean more than simply the academic subjects. It is also a holistic cross disciplinary approach to teaching and seeks to instil in students a range of underpinning skills that are needed in the future work force. STEM is now a complete approach to education that is helping pioneer a new way to configure learning and teaching and steer us away from the Industrial Age education models. It is now said that we are in the Knowledge or Innovation Age and we need an education system that fits.
This week I want to explain a bit more about the underpinning skills mentioned above and put it all together in a graphic that will hopefully explain how it should all fit together.
There is an organisation in the USA known as whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for 21st century learning so that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops. They have created a framework for 21st century learning which supports the USA’s education system yet is applicable to Australia in many ways. They advise the need for a focus on: 
  • The curriculum’s subject areas - Australia has the equivalent
  • A number of interdisciplinary themes - Australia has some equivalence in its seven general capabilities and three cross-curriculum priorities.
  • Learning and Innovation skills - These are the 4 Cs. Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking. Australia’s curriculum already has two of these
  • Information, media and technology and Life and career skills - Australia has some equivalence in its seven general capabilities and three cross-curriculum priorities
My version of the framework incorporates the requirements of the Australian Curriculum (seven subjects plus the seven general capabilities (which I have broken out into eight)), the 4Cs of 21st century learning and the skill of computational thinking. The idea being that the seven subject areas are taught with a general focus on STEM (ie. weaving STEM concepts into every lesson) and in such a way that the general capabilities and 21st century skills are developed by each student. It is these latter capabilities and skills which are actually the crucial elements that kids need to develop through their schooling. The view is that with these skills they will be well placed to thrive in the modern age which is fast evolving and which will be substantially different by the time they leave school in a way which we can't even begin to imagine.

You can read about the support systems (the ripples at the bottom) on the website. Essentially these are the systems that support the teachers in their development of lessons to achieve the stated outcome of a liberal education with a STEM focus which develops a number of fundamental life skills.
Schools need to to decide that they will meet the government's policies and Chief Scientist's call. Smart use of technology and engaging lesson plans are what is needed to increase the STEM focus in primary school and deliver those needed 21st century skills. Parents need to make it known that they want these opportunities for their children and start discussing how change can be made to happen, it wont happen by itself.
Next week I will talk about what needs to be done to make these pie in the sky ideas a reality.

Stuff in the news

Five ways to get started with STEM An article from the EducationHQ Australia website 2 November 2016
Why STEM Majors Need the Humanities An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education 6 January 2017
STEM Conference reveals much to be done An article from last year’s annual national STEM conference in Melbourne by Dr Jane Hunter 1 September 2016

Stuff to buy

Tinkerbots - A toy building set with easy-to-add robotics that make it possible for children and adults to create an endless number of toy robots simply by snapping together blocks.
Ironbot - IronBot is a 3-in-1 DIY robot-learning kit, which can be assembled as a Robotic Arm, Biped Robot or Humanoid Robot by children aged 8 years and up.
*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

I listed three articles two weeks ago from Jane Hunter who is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at UTS and is conducting postdoctoral research in STEM. This week I would like to direct attention to her pedagogical framework known as High Possibility Classrooms (HPC):
Adding a fourth “R” to the Chief Scientist’s list for education

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!
Watch some TV on Australia's very own Science Channel
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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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