Month: October 2017

October 27, 2017

This week we have a look at our WA winners for the STEM video game challenge. Plus, some opinion pieces, and a great math learning opportunity for primary teachers.

STEM Video Game Challenge

STEM video game competition
Image: ACER

The annual STEM Video Game Challenge results are in, and WA schools took out two of the six prizes! Kye Ziebarth, Fabian Scheffler, Kenji McAuliffe from Churchlands SHS won one of the year 9-12 awards. Jaxson Brown from Australind SHS took out an award in the year 5-8 category. Well done!

If you go to the website and download the theme sheet you can find links to some interesting games similar to this year’s theme, like this fun chemistry game. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the website for next year’s competition details. And in the meantime, their teacher resource page has a game development lesson plan guide and plenty of handy links.

Dan Finkel coming to Perth

Maths education specialist, Dan Finkel, will be giving a presentation and workshop on December 4th at 4:30pm. The event will be at Scitech and is for primary teachers. Dan Finkel is the founder of Math4Love, where you can find maths games, inspiration and lesson plans. He has also been a TEDx speaker, and you can hear his talk about the five principles of extraordinary maths teaching on Youtube. His methodology has close ties to our philosophy here at the STEM Learning Project.

In my opinion…

Some interesting opinion pieces floating around the internet this week. Rebecca Morse shares the need for STEM skills. Not just to create new jobs and a better economy, but to help people filter out the vast swathes of misinformation that flood social media.

But, Elizabeth Garbee warns, we should beware of thinking about students’ STEM development as a “pipeline” with “leaks” where students escape the system. Instead, we should think about a STEM ecosystem, where STEM skills and knowledge can be used in a whole interconnected web of different contexts.


October 13, 2017

In this week’s article we have a look at two examples of our STEM learning resources in action. We also take a look at STEM in the early years and a new national space agency for Australia (seriously!).

STEM learning resources in action

Comet Bay College has been running the STEM Learning Project module Urban shade in their year 8 class. They published a short newsletter about it including some great photos of the students in action. You can find it here.

We’ve also trialled several other resources, including Every bird needs a home.We asked Ben Kay, a primary science specialist, to tell us about his experience teaching the module. Here are some of the things he said.



What is the module about?

It’s about investigating the birdlife around a school and finding ways to improve the school environment to encourage birds to keep making it their home.

STEM learning resources
Activity 2: Predicting where we will find birds around the school


Standout from the module?

Going bird-watching and tallying the data is a great motivating introduction…the kids still run up to me to tell me about the birds they still see in their everyday lives, great outcome!

every bird needs a home
Activity 2: Bird watching and data collection


Top tip for teaching STEM?

Take a real world problem, plan some possible ways to solve it and lead the students to some of those possibilities using STEM skills to do so. You can assess their science, maths and technologies skills along the way!

how to make a STEM project
Engaging children in STEM thinking

STEM in the early years

Dr Pauline Roberts from Edith Cowan University presented at the Early Childhood Australia national conference last year on the subject of STEM in early childhood. You can find the slides here.

This editorial sheds some light on why STEM education in the early years is so important. It mentions a recent report, STEM Starts Early, out of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Both the report and the Center website are well worth a look for those of you in the early years STEM learning space.

Science Nation

If you haven’t yet checked out, it’s worth a look. It’s the central site for information on federal government science policy and programs. You can find useful links to teacher resources and calendars for talks, events, prizes and grants. Reports and other publications are published there as well. Two interesting ones have come out recently: first, the National Science Statement for 2017. Secondly, the results of a survey on beliefs and attitudes about science among the Australian public.

Another very exciting piece of news is that the federal government recently announced plans for an Australian space agency. Will the existence of such a thing spur Aussie students on to ever higher STEM heights? The Conversation certainly thinks so.

October 5, 2017

What a line up we have for you this week! We report back on the STEM Education conference and cover two cool STEM education resources originating in the USA. But first, what exactly is STEM, again?

Models of STEM

It can be a confusing term, and a new piece of research from Michigan University nails down why – no one really agrees on what it means. You can also read the university’s article on the research. Essentially, the researchers found 8 broad models of STEM education, as drawn by teachers. They ranged from very simple (eg STEM as four separate disciplines) to more nuanced (STEM is a complex interaction of disciplines). What was most interesting was that after undergoing professional development in the area, their thinking about what STEM is changed to more nuanced, complex definitions. Here at the STEM Learning Project, we think of STEM as embedded in real-world problem solving, as a set of skills and processes that will enable students to succeed in the future. Our STEM philosophy veers towards the complex interaction end of the spectrum.


Models of STEM
Research from Michigan University asked teachers to draw their models of STEM. These are examples of the “real-world” model.


So what about you? How do you think about STEM? Here are the three questions used in the study:

How would you depict your model of STEM Integration (in a picture)?

Describe your model in words.

What experiences (from professional learning or otherwise) inform your model?

We’d love to see how you think about STEM! If you want to share your answers to these questions with us or share anything else about how you view STEM, please contact us. If you want to learn more about how we view STEM and how our resources approach STEM teaching, come along to one of our PL sessions.

STEM Education Conference at Curtin

Professor Mark Hackling STEM Consortium
Professor Mark Hackling spoke at the STEM Education Conference last week

Last week the Mathematical Association of WA (MAWA) held a STEM Education conference at Curtin University, and of course we had to be there! 300 people attended the event and heard speakers cover diverse topics, from girls in STEM, to uses for robotics, to innovative maths teaching solutions. The STEM Learning Project Consortium Chair, Professor Mark Hackling, gave a short keynote address and talked about the STEM Learning Project resource module The Long Walk. In this module students learn about the long distances refugees must walk to reach safety. They go through science, maths and design processes to make shoes out of materials that people might commonly find on the road while walking. We also had Johanna Stalley give an introductory session. This generated a lot of interest and we had some great conversations with teachers and other educators. All in all a great two days!

Fab Lab

Fab Labs – my first thought when I heard about this initiative was “fabulous labs”.  And it’s true, they are pretty fabulous. But that’s not what the fab stands for. Instead, it’s short for “fabrication”. Fab Labs are like maker spaces, but turbo-charged. They are equipped with industrial-grade fabrication tools, and open-source software written by MIT researchers. The goal of the Fab Lab movement, which started at MIT, is to make these top-of-the-line facilities available to anyone. You can check out some of their projects, their charter and more on their web page.

Fab Labs may have started at MIT, but they haven’t stayed there. In the United States funding from Chevron is bringing Fab Labs to rural areas. Australia has Fab Labs too –  in WA you can find them here and here.  As you might have guessed, it is now a global movement with labs in 30 countries around the world.

A Simulating Website

Simulations are a wonderful way to help students understand abstract concepts. And now with the digital era in full flight, good simulations are easily accessible for anyone with a connected device. The University of Colorado’s PhET website is one such resource that provides science and maths simulations for use in classrooms. It caters for all levels from primary school to university. This simple primary school simulation helps explain static electricity with the help of John Travolta. You’re welcome.