The University of Canberra’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Research Centre (SERC) is calling for expressions of interest from primary schools across Australia to participate in a free pilot program in 2024.
The ELSA: STEM in Schools program is an innovative, evidence-based teaching tool, intended to engage students in foundation year, year one and year two in positive STEM learning experiences, develop their STEM skills, and build their confidence with numeracy.
The program is led by SERC director, Centenary Professor Tom Lowrie, and funded by the Australian Government Department of Education.
Through the ELSA: STEM in Schools program, students will be able to explore an online, play-based learning environment on any computer or hand-held device with a web browser. All online sessions will be supervised by a teacher in a controlled web environment.
“The program will be accessible for every child—regardless of gender, cultural heritage, socio-economic status or experience—and actively include those children in vulnerable, geographically-isolated, and non-traditional-learning communities who have often been excluded from STEM education opportunities,” Lowrie said.
The ELSA: STEM in Schools program expression of interest is open to all Australian primary schools, and the pilot will commence in early 2024.
The program provides STEM education in alignment with the Australian curriculum, learning outcomes for the relevant STEM-discipline curricula, as well as the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) Numeracy Learning Progressions.
Importantly, the digital tools will collect a student’s STEM literacy data, and report this data back to their teachers, without conducting time-consuming formal assessments.
“We’re developing this program to increase the participation of Australian students in STEM education, to give them confidence to do STEM, and to boost these skills in the early primary school years,” Lowrie said.
The ELSA: STEM in Schools program balances digital games with teacher-led, hands-on activities that can be completed in the classroom or playground.
Only one-third of the program will take place on digital devices—limiting screen time but also giving students the opportunity to experience STEM scenarios that would be very difficult for teachers to reproduce in a real-life classroom setting (such as the perspective of a bird flying over the roof of the classroom).
“The program will be beneficial to teachers, with a comprehensive professional development course designed to increase STEM knowledge, teaching capacity, and confidence in teaching STEM,” Lowrie said.
“We are looking forward to working with Australia’s primary school teachers to foster confidence in STEM and a love of STEM in our youngest students.”
Teachers and school representatives can register their interest on the ELSA: STEM in Schools website. Up to 300 schools will be selected for the pilot in 2024.
For more information, visit elsaschools.edu.au