Learning Through STEM

Why teach STEM?

Every country in the world is reforming their education system at the current time. Why? Well we are told it is because we are not preparing students with the skills and attributes they need for the future. Many jobs in the future will depend on students have a really good basis in STEM.

“Science and technology are at the heart of every major challenge we face: rebuilding transport systems in major town and cities, climate change, space exploration, creating a healthy economy. Yet every year the number of Graduates in STEM decreases in New Zealand” 

Our government has created a new initiative called Curious Minds. “A Nation of Curious Minds is the blueprint for the Science in Society project. In July 2014, the Minister of Science and Innovation, Hon Steven Joyce, and the Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, launched A Nation of Curious Minds, the Government’s plan to encourage and enable better engagement with science and technology across New Zealand society.

The plan, A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara, recognises the important role scientific knowledge and innovation play in our lives and in creating and defining New Zealand’s future, economically, socially and environmentally.”

Through the MOA Kluster our school has been developing exciting new partnerships and focus, for some months we have been developing a STEM focus.We are still at the beginning of our journey. We have had a combined meeting with the BOT of the four schools and all have agreed that this is a direction that is important for our students and their future.

So What Are We Doing About It?

Mr Frank has huge expertise in this area and he will work alongside the other schools in our cluster to self review our current maths direction; while trialling some exciting new initiatives. We are working hard to develop a stronger element of science in our schools for 2016, and we are currently networking both here in New Zealand and overseas to explore options for 2016. We have bit by bit been improving our knowledge and skills both with students and teachers in technology.

So What About Engineering? Do You Actually Do That At Primary School?

The short answer is YES.

If you’ve ever watched children at play, you know they're fascinated with building things—and with taking things apart to see how they work. In other words, children are natural-born engineers. When children engineer in a school setting, research suggests several positive results:

Building Science and Math Skills

Engineering calls for children to apply what they know about science and math—and their learning is enhanced as a result. At the same time, because engineering activities are based on real-world technologies and problems, they help children see how disciplines like math and science are relevant to their lives.

Classroom Equity

Research suggests engineering activities help build classroom equity. The engineering design process removes the stigma from failure; instead, failure is an important part of the problem-solving process and a positive way to learn. Equally important, in engineering there’s no single “right” answer; one problem can have many solutions. When classroom instruction includes engineering, all students can see themselves as successful.

21st Century Skills

Hands-on, project-based learning is the essence of engineering. As groups of students work together to answer questions like “How large should I make the canopy of this parachute?” or “What material should I use for the blades of my windmill?” they collaborate, think critically and creatively, and communicate with one another.

Computational Thinking

Computational Thinking (CT) is a problem solving process that includes a number of characteristics and dispositions. CT is essential to the development of computer applications, but it can also be used to support problem solving across 

all disciplines, including the humanities, math, and science. Students who learn CT across the curriculum can begin to see a relationship between academic subjects, as well as between life inside and outside of the classroom.

The Skills We Need To Develop With OUR Students...

Decomposition: Breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts

Pattern Recognition: Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data

Abstraction: Identifying the general principles that generate these patterns

Algorithm Design: Developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems

Computational Thinking will act as the overarching umbrella for STEM. Our teachers already use many aspects of computational thinking in their daily programmes. 

When our teachers are teaching maths many aspects of computational thinking are required to break down problems, look for patterns, or to "sort the wood from the trees" (Abstraction)