Putting the ‘C’ into STEM
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Putting the ‘C’ into STEM

Putting the ‘C’ into STEM

Creativity isn’t always what springs to mind when you think about the expertise of a scientist or engineer, yet it’s a proven fundamental STEM skill as well as one of the world’s most in-demand future skills. Non-profit organisation and social enterprise, Playground Ideas, manufacturers the Nüdel Kart – a de-constructible, mobile loose parts cart – which is designed to cultivate creativity, wellbeing and social skills in primary school children.

The gap between the knowledge generated by the education system and the skills demanded by employers is widening, according to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) National STEM Education Resources Toolkit. With future careers also relying heavily on ‘21st century skills’, which include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving.

The DESE suggests that overcoming these limitations requires a priority focus on the development of 21st century workplace skills. “When done well, STEM education complements the development of 21st century skills,” states the DESE. “So many STEM classes are full of robots and technology and coding but they are secondary to the foundations of STEM. The fundamentals of STEM are all about how to think, how to come together to problem solve and how to collaborate in teams. Nüdel Kart does that in a highly physical, practical way through children experiencing it first hand,’’ says Marcus Veerman, Founder and CEO of Nüdel Kart/Playground Ideas.


The World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report found that by 2025 approximately 50% of all employees will need re-skilling. The report highlighted creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, originality and initiative amongst the top 10 skills that will be required for future work. The report also highlighted newly emerging data that skills in self- management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility would become more prudent. “People who are strong in creativity – even if they are not strong in other areas – are able to solve problems and get through things even when they come across difficulties. If they are struggling with literacy and numeracy or other things – creative people find other ways to get around those things to thrive in life,” says Veerman.

Marcus Veerman, Founder and CEO of Nüdel Kart/Playground Ideas.


Nüdel Kart is a social enterprise created by the non profit, Playground Ideas. All profits from the sale of Nüdel Karts provide global support to empower communities around the world to build stimulating spaces for play using only local materials, tools, and skills. The Nüdel Kart was born after seeing the huge developmental value of including loose parts equipment in these areas and has now been rigorously tested with children and educators around the globe for use across the curriculum in the classroom or playground, and in any size space. “We started realising how important and how amazing loose parts are as a self-directed learning tool and as a tool to teach these critical skills; such as social skills, maintaining wellbeing, problem solving and collaboration. Skills that are in the curriculum but most educators are not trained in and find hard to teach,” says Veerman.

Being a charitable organisation and social enterprise continues to underpin the organisation’s ethos with Nüdel Karts recently being donated to flood and bushfire affected communities in Australia and to Romania for Ukrainian refugee children. As of 2021 Playground Ideas had supported more than 6000 projects, across 143 countries, impacting over 3 million children. ‘’The roots of the Nüdel Kart were created in developing countries, in places such as refugee camps, which is why it’s so robust and so rigorously designed . It’s designed to last for years and years and years as a highly versatile tool for teachers to use in almost any subject,’’ says Veerman.


In a research paper titled, ‘Creativity in STEM education: Reshaping the creative project’, author T.Larkin writes; ‘’There is a great demand for creative and innovative thinkers in STEM. While scientists and engineers are often perceived as only being concerned about hard facts and numerical data and computations, a great deal of creativity is required. The fact that it takes a great deal of creativity when performing tasks within the STEM domains is often overlooked.”

“This fact is overlooked not only in terms of perceptions, but also within the formal STEM curriculum. Perhaps it is because the curriculum is already so over-packed with technical courses that there is just no room for creative projects,” Larkin continues. According to the University of Western Australia, students should develop the following key skills through STEM:

• problem solving
• creativity
• critical analysis
• teamwork
• independent thinking
• initiative
• communication
• digital literacy

A 2017 research paper by Pollard, Hains-Wesson, and Young titled, ‘Creative Teaching in STEM’ states: ‘’Creative teaching needs to become more prominent in STEM.’’ The research investigated attempts to teach creatively, as experienced by nine STEM educators in an Australian university and found that, “creative teaching afforded fulfilment for teachers.”

Nüdel Karts are designed for primary school children to develop their STEM, creativity and 21st century skills. The carts are also designed to help students explore fundamental topics such as, development, self-regulation as well as a growth mindset through creative, unstructured play. Nüdel Kart’s create an environment for children to explore ‘first principles thinking’ – sometimes called ‘reasoning from first principles’, where the idea is to break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up. The Nüdel Kart has been tested to provide hours of play and learning with infinite possibilities.

Nüdel Kart’s Teacher Creativity Manual is a guide for teachers on how to integrate 21st century skills into their lessons.


There are a wide variety of training resources available from Nüdel Kart for teachers including assembly, pack up, curriculum linked training manuals, and videos. Nüdel Kart’s Teacher Creativity Manual, written in collaboration with Dr Tim Patston from the University of South Australia is a useful guide for teachers on how to integrate 21st century skills into their lessons. It details the four steps of the creative process and includes lesson ideas.

“Our Nüdel Kart continues to be one of the highlights in our school day. The creative interactions are endless and unique every time we use it. I can testify that, I had the Nüdel Kart out for over 1.5 hrs and there was not a single squabble,” says Shannon Ruskin, Teacher, Newrybar Public School, NSW. “Every single child was totally engaged for the duration, they were collaborating, problem solving, creating and innovating. My senior class are always just as engaged, the year 6 boys said they wished they could take the Nüdel Kart home. I look forward to the many years of fun and adventure with our cart,” adds Ruskin.

For further information visit, www.nudelkart.com

This article was first published in Education Matters Primary Magazine, September 2022. To read the issue download it here. 


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