September 1, 2017

Happy spring everyone! Since it’s the first STEM education roundup of the new season, we’re focussing on new growth. There’s new school initiatives, new fields of science, and STEM early learning. I’m also going to be making a lot of unapologetic spring puns – ye be warned!

STEM early learning
Springing into STEM: For best results, start early.

A spring in the step of WA STEM

First up, 200 WA primary schools are set to receive new STEM facilities over the next four years. In this exciting initiative, regular classrooms will be upgraded to science labs. Schools will also receive funds to purchase equipment. If your school is eligible, you can put in an expression of interest now. Find the form and some more information here.

The Aurecon Bridge Building Competition for 2017 recently took place at Scitech in City West. Baldivis Secondary College students took home the overall prize. Even if you missed the action this year, you can always have a go next year. Just keep an eye on the Aurecon website for info about next year’s competition!

STEM for spring chickens

STEM early learning
Spring chickens getting on top of STEM. CC BY 2.0 by Kabsik Park

In WA, iSTEM is one of a number of initiatives that are part of a push for early childhood STEM education. Several scientists and researchers in Perth are running the project. For more on this, check out ECU’s article on the recent STEM Innovation Expo.

Continuing the theme of STEM in early childhood, we have this piece from The Conversation. It focuses on the use of makers spaces for students as young as year one. Children learned not only STEM skills, but also resilience and perseverance.

Then there’s this heartwarming testimonial. It’s the story of one school using STEM to pull their community out of poverty. STEM education starts in pre-kindergarten, with children doing engineering tasks built around familiar stories and learning the foundations of coding.

Lessons from the past a springboard into the future

Standing on the shoulders of STEM giants: in this section we look at how hard-won knowledge from the past can help the next generation spring into the future. Former NASA astronaut writes about the importance of STEM education for the future of exploration. Meghan Groome reflects on the benefits of two decades worth of STEM education in the US.

And now that we’re in the “age of data”, we need a new field of science. Fortunately, technology expert Genevieve Bell is planning to give us just that. Bell was formerly the leading researcher at Intel on the way people interact with technology. Now she’s at the Australian National University and has big plans for what’s ahead.


August 24, 2017

It’s a quick one today, but we look at some interesting stuff. First, we see how taking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on board enriches STEM education. Secondly, we have a look at flipped learning, another great new way to teach maths. Last of all, we’ve got a couple of links for you to check out about the federal funding cuts to education.


Indigenous STEM
Courtesy University of the Fraser Valley. CC BY 2.0


Indigenous culture and maths

Chris Matthews of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance is helping Indigenous students get into STEM, reports the ABC. Matthews encourages young Indigenous people to believe in themselves and to value the different perspective the cultural heritage gives them. 

Maths and science are a part of Indigenous culture and this perspective can lend new ways of thinking about STEM. See this Queensland teaching resource and this ABC article for more information about Indigenous ways of teaching and learning maths. And now here’s a list of ways Indigenous science knowledge benefits research today.

Flipped Learning

Here’s another interesting way of teaching maths, called flipped learning. In this method, students learn content at home through watching videos. Working through problems, traditionally something completed for homework, is done in class where students have access to teacher support.


Education Cuts to Hit Maths and Science

Unfortunately, while STEM education in schools is getting attention, the latest funding cuts from the federal government may impact maths and science at the university level. SBS reports the debate between federal education minister Simon Birmingham and the Universities Australia over the issue. See also this in depth article from the Australian on the issue.




August 17, 2017

Regional STEM PL

Our regional STEM PL workshops are still going strong. At the start of August the STEM LP team headed up to Karratha to run workshops for the Pilbara network. Primary and secondary teachers and leaders attended and said the material was extremely useful. We’re excited about the strong drive for STEM education in the Pilbara.

In the near future, we have even more regional workshops planned. We’ll be heading up to Christmas Island on 31st August. And in October we’ll be delivering PL in Esperance, so get in contact if you’re interested in attending. As always, you can check on upcoming sessions and find booking links at our PL page.


Regional STEM PL
We’re travelling all over WA with our regional workshops. Image courtesy aussiejeff via Flickr.
CC Attribution share alike

The STEM Innovation Expo

On Monday the Department of Education held its inaugural STEM Innovation Expo at the Crown Perth. Mark Hackling, the STEM Learning Project consortium chair and Michael Peter, the project manager, attended as seminar presenters. They gave a short workshop on the learning materials to over 100 attendees. You can watch a livestream of the entire expo on the DoE’s Youtube channel. The STEM LP content starts at 2:12:24.

New Ideas in STEM Education

There’s been lots of interesting STEM education news over the past few weeks. Firstly, out of the University of Melbourne is this interesting article about all the wonderful STEM initiatives happening around Australia and how we can support them.

There were a few interesting opinion pieces in the news as well. Gemma Tognini from the West Australian laments the lack of compulsory maths subjects for gaining a WA education certificate. However, she misses the fact that maths competency is inherent in subjects like home economics. Tom McLeish from the Guardian thinks its never too soon to get kids experimenting and playing in science class, while at the Scientific American Josephine Lister says we need to break down negative stereotypes and link science to student’s lives.

The Educator writes about using the Maths Pathway program to change the way maths education in run in schools. And how about using CAD software to teach STEM? has some thoughts on that.

STEM innovation
There are so many options for STEM education.

Keep Adding Letters

First we had STEM, then we added arts to get STEAM. Now there’s a new letter – R for reading. STREAM education is a new, deeply cross-curricular way of teaching that more and more educators are embracing. Get some tips and ideas about using this approach from EdTech here. 

Well my friends, that’s all for this week. Happy STREAMing!

July 27, 2017

This week’s roundup has lots of information on the future job markets that today’s students will be entering into. And of course, in the face of a changing tomorrow, we need to change how we prepare students today.

Future Job Markets

Our STEM workshops and materials are one fantastic way for you to prepare your students with the creative and critical thinking skills they need. Find one near you here!

Future Job Markets


Here at the STEM Learning Project we are all about helping young people develop skills for future success. It turns out that this future will be highly flexible and skills-focussed.

This article from The Australian talks about a growing trend among young people to build ‘career portfolios’. More and more, young people are customising their education pathways to give themselves the skills employers want, rather than going through an education course neatly from start to finish.

This is in line with the Foundation for Young Australian’s findings on the emerging job market. The report outlines seven major job clusters in Australia which share significant skill sets. Instead of staying in one job their whole lives, people will increasingly swap between careers in the same cluster.

Meanwhile, the Financial Review reports concerns about the future of Australia if maths and science standards continue to fall. The article reports on comments from DOW Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris about the responsibilities of scientists in Australia.


How Does Education Need To Change?

Automation and digital disruption
Automation and digital disruption are changing the job market. Young people need the skills to keep up.


This article from the Sydney Morning Herald speaks about how our educations systems need to adjust to the realities of our future job markets. Not only our teaching strategies, but the skills we teach need to change as well.

What we’re teaching will need to change…We need to start looking at how we can assess things like critical thinking.

–Rob Nairn, Australian Secondary Principal Association

Libraries, Science and Maths – Oh My!

Teacher Magazine recently published an infographic showing a connection between the number of books in a student’s home and their achievement levels in maths and science.

The figures are interesting, but is it as easy as buying a load of old books from the op shop and scattering them around your house? Doubtful – it’s more likely the reasons are far more complex. Perhaps having many books is a characteristic of a family that loves learning. Maybe there is a correlation with socio-economic factors. Whatever the explanation, these statistics at least show that traditionally separate subjects may be more integrated than we thought.

Getting Up and Moving

When it comes to learning, exercise can always make it better, says Caroline Milburn. She reports on findings from the University of Canberra that a good physical education program can boost literacy and numeracy scores.

Finally, from the Sydney Morning Herald we have this piece on how outdoor learning can have positive effects across the curriculum.

June 29, 2017

This week in STEM news the theme is new day, new ways. We’ll have a look at new STEM education methods, new facilities for materials science and a few inspiring visions of the future of STEM.


New STEM Education Methods Turbo Charge Student Learning

The star of this section is this amazing study. Researchers found that students on a special diet of hands-on and digital activities improved their maths scores by a massive 20%. The teaching program came out of the University of Canberra and used existing digital education apps.


Also, Mary Pilgrim and Thomas Dick at The Conversation write about how how maths education needs to move away from a lecture format. Instead, they say, we should be using more active formats of learning. Questioning, exploration and open discussions are great examples of ways to make a lesson more interactive.

If this were a medical study in which active learning was the experimental drug, the authors write, trials would be ‘stopped for benefit’ – because active learning is so clearly beneficial for students.

Read the whole article here.


Last up in our collection of new education methods, Judith Woods at The Telegraph investigates a swathe of programs being introduced in schools around the UK. These methods, such as spaced learning, have produced vastly improved results. The article covers not just STEM subjects, but other academic subjects such as literacy.

New Facilities For Material Scientists

Material science, as you may know, is a branch of chemistry. And now material scientists at MIT have access to a brand new lab to make cutting edge fabrics. The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) lab recently opened across the street from the technological institute. It will not just be a place where phenomenal fabrics are designed and created. It will also be a centre for innovation and learning.

Visions of the Future

The future of STEM education looks bright. A changing economy and job outlook might seem daunting. But new STEM education methods are emerging to equip today’s students for these challenges. Robotics is a popular approach to integrated STEM learning. The use of robots looks set to continue growing as the demand for digital capability increases.


New STEM Education methods
This robot makes art in response to sounds. Photo CC Sharealike by Todd Kulesza.


But it isn’t only STEM education that’s changing. The need for high level thinking skills and cross-curricular integration is prompting calls for change across the board. This article from Fast Company makes five predictions about the future of education. It points to a more democratic, integrated and technologically driven system.


Last of all, if you’ve read this whole list and you still want more, you can dig into this chunky report. The US Department of Education published the report, which outlines a vision of STEM education for 2026. It highlights some of the same key themes you will find often on the STEM Learning Project website: real-world, open-ended problem solving tasks to encourage collaboration, creativity and critical thinking; and to train students for the challenges of the future.


June 8, 2017

The weekly STEM education round up from the STEM Learning Project – this week is Queensland heavy. Plus, we read an opinion piece and learn about digital technology’s humanitarian powers in Project Hope.

What’s happening at the STEM Learning Project?

Bonus professional development is on the cards in Bunbury on the 26th and 27th of June. Click here for more info and to book.


A STEM Research Odyssey by Queensland Teacher

Sarah Chapman, from Townsville High School, went on a research odyssey to find out about best practise in STEM education. Encouragingly, she found that the international community is united on the need for quality STEM education. Read about it at Teacher Magazine.


Why STEM Education is Essential for the Future

Oh the humanities! Stephen Parker from The Australian gives his take on how to get ready for the tech-heavy jobs of the future. Not only will we need STEM knowledge, he says, but also STEM thinking skills. In addition, marrying STEM skills with arts and humanities will be vital. You can read more here.


How Tech Can Help The World’s Most Vulnerable Children

Weekly round up
Photo by Brad Flickinger under CC Attribution license


Eureka alert reports findings from Project Hope, an initiative run with Syrian refugee children in Turkey. Using digital games helped the children learn important thinking, technological and language skills. Even better, their mental health also improved.


Future Tech Showcase at University of Queensland

The Australian Computer Society Foundation held the BiG Day In at UQ today. The BiG Day In is a showcase for secondary school students about the technology jobs of the future. These jobs require STEM skills such as creativity and problem solving skills. Read the University’s write up here.




May 22, 2017

May is shaping up to be an exciting month for us here at the STEM Learning Project. On Tuesday the 9th we officially launched the Project with a showcase event held at Scitech in City West. From the 24th we will be rolling out Professional Learning across the state. These will equip teachers to use the materials we are developing.


STEM Learning Project Launch Night

The STEM Learning Project Showcase evening highlighted some wonderful results from the Learning Project’s initial trial phase. Key participants from the consortium and our associated organisations came together to share in what we have learned so far.


Speakers and consortium members at the launch night.
Speakers and consortium members at the launch night.


We were very privileged to welcome five teachers from our trial schools. These teachers shared their experience using the modules. Guests were able to view examples of students’ work in three of the modules. The Long Walk has year threes choosing materials to make a shoe in a long-term, in depth investigation that teaches empathy at the same time as building STEM skills. In Bushfire Risk Warnings, year six students write an algorithm to predict bushfires and in Amp Up The Volume, year nines research acoustics to create a passive amplifier for their phones.

Trial teachers and VIPs at the launch night.
The Honourable Sue Ellery MLC, Member for Education with some of our fabulous trial teachers.

STEM Learning Project Consortium Chair Mark Hackling, the Honourable Sue Ellery MLC, and Chief Scientist Peter Klinken helped remind us of the “why” with their words on the importance of STEM for the future of WA.


Based on PWC findings, 75% of the fastest growing careers now require STEM skills, and yet in another startling statistic from the OECD, there was an 11% fall in participation in intermediate maths over the last 20 years.


Professional Learning OpportunitiesSTEM Professional Learning

The future of WA depends on today’s students, and to make a difference they need to be learning STEM. That’s why the Learning Project exists. To help teachers integrate STEM across the curriculum, we are running some professional learning sessions starting in Geraldton on the 24th May. To find out more about the workshops and to book into one near you, click here.



February 14, 2017
Professor Mark Hackling at a workshop.

STEM – it’s a term you might have been hearing a lot of lately. But what is it, why is it so great and most importantly, how do we teach it to our students?

Teachers and principals who are looking for STEM resources will be pleased to know that the STEM Learning Project has been set up to deliver just that. We are developing a suite of resources across all year levels for WA schools. To help introduce teachers to these resources, we will be conducting professional learning workshops across WA.

What kind of resources are they?

The resources adopt a problem-based learning approach. Students seek solutions to open-ended, real-world problems, such as predicting the risk of bushfires or developing an appealing playground for young children. Each module is closely linked to the WA curriculum and includes assessment rubrics. Teachers who have trialed the resources so far have told us the resources are flexible, innovative and that the students are meaningfully engaged by the work. Finally, these resources are classroom ready and integrative, so you can cover several learning outcomes and subjects during the unit of work.


STEM Workshops Around WA

We ran a series of well-received workshops to targeted areas in 2016. Next, the STEM Learning Project will be inviting teachers to another series of workshops across W.A. in 2017. These workshops will focus on an introduction to STEM teaching and learning, and the newly developed resources. You can get the details here. For enquiries about the STEM Learning Project, click here.

Participant notes from the first STEM workshop.
Participant notes from our first workshop.