STEM in Primary

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

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Project Based Learning

Stuff this week - Project Based Learning

Typically the school day consists of a number of individual lessons such as 9am maths, 10am science etc. The lessons have no relationship with each other and this approach has no relationship with real life. In your work, for any given task, you might use your maths and english knowledge and use your skills of communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. You don't use one skill at a time. Why the disconnect? Regardless of the answer to that question it doesn't have to be this way.
There is an approach collectively known as "Inquiry Based Learning" which allows for students to use a variety of skills to solve a problem or project. It takes on a variety of different names (eg. Project or Problem based learning), due mainly to slightly different focus, but the core idea is of giving students a problem where they need to use a variety of skills to solve.
Sometimes this will involve being given a driving question (eg. What is the weather like on Planet X) which will drive the activities throughout the school day. In science they will learn how to measure various weather parameters, in english they will write the script for the weather report, in art they will build the set for the broadcast and in maths they will work out how long it will take the information to reach earth. The end goal is allowing the students to work out the best way to express a unique, rich answer to the question.
These sorts of projects provide authentic reasons for the kids to work collaboratively. This allows those expensive laptops to be actually put to good use instead of being simply a search engine interface and word processor. Google Docs for example allows multiple editors to work simultaneously on the one document (colour coded cursors show who is doing what) while the teacher monitors all this activity and can provide real time feedback.
These ideas are not new. It is derived from the work of John Dewey and dates back to William Kilpatrick, who first used the term in 1918. The Buck Institute of Education, is the pre-eminent organisation devoted to this approach and they see project-based learning as a broad category which, as long as there is an extended "project" at the heart of it, could take several forms or be a combination of:
  • Designing and/or creating a tangible product, performance or event
  • Solving a real-world problem (may be simulated or fully authentic)
  • Investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question
There are schools in Australia which use this approach and the NSW Department of Education encourages it. Is your school looking at this approach? A good STEM project is a great start. 

Stuff in the news

Budget 2017: STEM education in rural Australia gains AU$30m - AU$24 million will fund STEM and health scholarships for regional students, while AU$6 million will be used to trial digital apps to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's literacy.
Encouraging Girls To Stay In STEM - An article from the UK Huffington Post 8 May 2017
Girl Scouts CEO urges young girls to be fearless in science - An article from CNBC 8 May 2017

Stuff to buy

National Geographic - Break Open Geodes Science Kit - Geology doesn’t get more exciting then breaking open rocks and finding crystal treasures!
*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

Forget the 3Rs: Modern schools need to embrace the 4Cs - Imagine a school where the teachers are really developing skills in innovation. An article from The Sydney Morning Herald 7 March 2017.
8 Examples of Transforming Lessons Through the SAMR Cycle - An article from Emerging EdTech in 2015 but some great ideas about technology can transform lessons.
15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher - An article from Edutopia 20 February 2015.
What the Heck Is Inquiry-Based Learning? - Inquiry-based learning is more than asking a student what he or she wants to know. It’s about triggering curiosity. An article from Edutopia 11 August 2016.

Stuff to do Australia Wide

Australian STEM Video Game Challenge - For grades 5+.The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge will ask participants to develop games in response to a central theme or idea. Registration open 1 May and submissions close 25 August.
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 are OPEN. See the YouTube video here!
CSIRO CREST Program - CREativity in Science and Technology. Engage your students with open-ended science investigations and technology projects through the CREST program.
Edutech 2017 - EduTECH is the LARGEST education event in Asia-Pac and the Southern Hemisphere. 7-9 June 2017 in Sydney.
National Science Week - Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology and thousands of individuals – from students, to scientists to chefs and musicians – get involved, taking part in more than 1000 science events across the nation. 12 - 20 August 2017
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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
Code Club Australia - A network of coding clubs for kids aged 9 to 11.

Stuff to do in Brisbane

STEAM EXPO – A Festival of Education for the Future. This event is being held on the 21st May from 9.30am – 5pm. Entry is FREE. 14 different workshops $25-$50 each. Bulimba State School.
Robotronica 2017 - Robotronica is a groundbreaking one-day event showcasing the latest developments in robotics and interactive design. QUT's The Cube 20 August 2017 
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Brisbane Library Service has purchased the very flash NAO Robot and is showing it off in various libraries.
The Cube at QUT has a number of changing programs. 
Brisbane Planetarium - Features entertaining and informative shows for adults and children
STEAMPUNX - Not to be confused with the organisation above! Offers in-school and out of school workshop programs
Flying Fox Studios - A studio offering programs in the arts, music and construction areas from babies to teenagers in Brisbane
It's Rocket Science School Incursions - Educational and fully interactive project based rocket science incursions for primary and secondary schools in a safe and empowering learning environment.

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