The first of 200 transformations of primary school classrooms into science laboratories has been completed as part of the Western Australian Government’s $17 million Science in Schools program.
Belmont Primary School, which is the first to reveal its new science laboratory, also received $25,000 to purchase laboratory equipment.
“Our focus on science in schools means more students across the state can take part in new learning experiences in a well-equipped, contemporary science lab, and teachers have more resources to plan hands-on activities,” said Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery.
The Science in Schools program will involve 200 public primary schools from across the state, selected based on their plans to grow and improve science education to skill students for the jobs of the future.
A total of 100 schools were allocated funding in the first round, with half of the allocated schools in low socio-economic areas.
“The generic skills students will learn in these new labs are vital for their future job prospects and for the state’s future economy,” added Minister Ellery.
From 24 July 2018, public primary schools can express their interest in the second round, which will see another 100 science laboratories delivered from 2020. . Expressions of interest will close on 17 August 2018.
Selected small public primary schools in Western Australia will receive funding grants for science equipment and resources to help students develop STEM skills such as teamwork, problem solving, creativity, independent thinking, critical analysis, initiative and communication.
In this video, published online by the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Education Futures, Science Communicator Maaroof Fakhri gives an in-depth presentation on how virtual reality and digital simulations might revolutionise STEM learning in the near future.
Last week, Stile Education and CSIRO launched a course of STEM learning lessons as a partnership initiative, trialed first by St Agatha’s Primary School.
The lesson content, which uses CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine as a platform, offers teachers and students integrated STEM learning material that aims to enhance learning outcomes in the area.
Stile Education CEO, Byron Scaf said the concept was developed following the success of the Cosmos-related offering the organisation had already developed for secondary students.
“When I started at Stile it was being led by Dr Alan Finkel, who has gone on to become Australia’s Chief Scientist,” said Mr Scaf, speaking with Education Matters a day after the launch event. “We began working on developing a tool that would make it easy for teachers to create their own fantastic lessons online. The idea wasn’t to create a platform for remote learning, but as a means for teachers to quickly and easily get content to, and receive questions from, their students in real time.”
The ‘A-ha!’ moment came after the launch of Stile’s secondary school offering and the Ebola crisis hit Africa. According to Mr Scaf, Stile used Cosmos’s editorial to demonstrate the science of infectious diseases to students. The results were striking and immediate.
“The students really engaged with the material because they found it relevant; here was a real event they could put into context in their lives,” he said. “That program is available for years 7-10.”
The next mission was to replicate the success of this project for younger years. Hence, Mr Scaf and his team sought a partnership with CSIRO.
“We’ve been through a structured process in order to deliver a universally useful tool that teachers will find easy to integrate on any level,” Mr Scaf said. “We assembled an advisory committee of active teachers, as well as the teachers of those teachers going into primary schools, to ensure we were absolutely meeting the needs of as many classes in Australia as possible.”
The newly released Double Helix Lessons cover everything a teacher is required to teach in Grades 5 and 6 science, including natural disasters, energy and light, and the solar system. The lessons can be easily customised, and consist of a wealth of multimedia. But perhaps most interesting is the concept that Stile has implemented in order to take engagement with the material a step further.
“We’ve designed these lessons to include these really relatable characters that take the students on adventures – science adventures,” said Mr Scaf. “Now that we’ve completed our pilot program with St Agatha’s, we’ve been able to hear some of the feedback from both students and teachers. It’s incredibly exciting to hear the kids say they love it because our characters appeal to their age.”
“The overall result is that we’ve created a means to make it easier for teachers to do what they do best, enhancing their students’ educations. This in turn helps all children to gain access to a higher level of science education – and that’s what we’re most excited about.”
Last week, Education Matters shared findings from The Grattan Institute’s Mapping Australian higher education 2016 report alongside comments made by its Higher Education Program Director, Andrew Norton.
As politicians continue to spruik the benefits of refocusing Australia’s education focus on STEM learning, the Grattan Institute has suggested this shouldn’t result in pushing students towards science degrees.