When you think of the word STEM what comes to mind?
Is it science? Is it mathematics? Is it a bunch of fancy experiments? Perhaps it is a meshing of the elements?
Whatever comes to mind I bet you’ve heard the term before. STEM has become somewhat of a buzzword in an attempt to boost student learning and pitched as what some would call a ‘miracle’ pedagogy.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the Sydney University STEM Academy and this week I had the opportunity to present to the cohort about what STEM is, so far, at St Luke’s.
As I sat listening to the other schools talk about what they are doing in their context, many vastly different to ourselves, I was able to pin point what we are aiming for, for our students. It is not some miracle that is going to help them understand science and mathematics but rather an integration of the two to see how they can hold each other hand in hand. Our aim is for our students to understand that when an engineer or architect goes to work it is impossible for them to seperate their tasks into how they use technology, science, mathematics and engineering. We want our students to get a rich understanding of how the concepts interweave.
Now when I think about STEM I break it down into three categories:
Level 1 Tasks are tasks that teach the skills associated with STEM like team work, negotiating & resolving conflict, taking on group roles and recording their learning. This encompasses very general activities such as building pipe cleaner towers or marble runs.
Level 2 Tasks are starting to introduce students to a more dynamic and evolving form of STEM Tasks. This term we asked students to make a lunch box. We gave students parameters but we:
- conducted experiments which has a mathematics focus;
- drew nets of shapes to discuss which lunch box would be best;
- discussed what insulation is and how it relates to our lunch.
This mainly took place towards the end of the term with little mini experiments leading up to the task. It was a small glimpse into a fully integrated whole term unit.
Level 3 Tasks place an emphasis on seeing interconnections. To conducting experiments and graphing information. They look at how students are able to connect skills and knowledge in their minds for a broader image of a topic or subject. At St Luke’s this will happen during term 3 and 4 as we use geography to get a rich context about how sustainable our area is at Marsden Park and what we can do as students to help. It may also include facetiming a farmer!
I look forward to sharing more towards the end of the year about how our journey has developed and how our students’ learning has progressed. Perhaps even having a video or two to share articulating the links between the varied, but wonderful, disciplines.
If you’d like to read further this recent blog on STEM Education’s changing nature is a worthwhile read.