After a very wet Australia Day long weekend here in Far North Queensland, it was back to school on Tuesday. As usual, parents had a list of books to buy for the new school year. Importantly did you notice if any of them mentioned STEM? More importantly, do you know what STEM is? To clarify, it is an acronym.
Worldwide Interest in STEM
In the first place many countries have programs encouraging students to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. As a matter of fact the term STEM came into common use in the 1990’s in the USA. In particular the term is used when looking at education policy and what should be taught in schools. The aim is to improve skills in science and technology. Consequently it can influence the sort of job students can aim for when they leave school.
Australia and STEM
Because the Australian Government regards the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as very important, the STEM subjects are central in the Australian classroom. Students need skills in these areas to live and work in the modern world.
The Government has allocated over $64 million dollars to fund early learning and school STEM subjects.
Back to school in Queensland and STEM
Education Queensland is fully behind the promotion of STEM subjects in Queensland State Schools. The Education Department is aware that Australia is falling behind in the areas of Science and Technology
The diagram below is from the Education Queensland website. It emphasises that job opportunities are growing faster in STEM areas than other occupations. Also there is a growing demand for STEM graduates in the workplace.
Additionally there is emphasis on educating more girls and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in STEM subjects as these people at present form only a small percentage of the workforce in technological and scientific areas.
Interestingly, the last point is “ensure every state school offers the Digital Technologies curriculum, including coding and robotics“,
How can you help?
Obviously you can help by encouraging an interest in science and technology. Fostering an interest is easier than you might think.
My daughter Abby has just turned eight. Although still in primary school she is fascinated by constructing models and has been for some time. She started with this interest when at Herberton Kindy. When she was four, the kindy introduced her to K’nex and she was off!
Abby made this big wheel after she got the kit for Christmas a couple of years ago.
Lego also provides lots of opportunity for creativity and learning about construction techniques. My mum took Abby and her brother to a Lego exhibition at the Brisbane Convention Centre. There was a full size Mazda car built from Lego. There were lots of models but two she and James liked were these:
Lego Digital Designs
Whilst practical hands on construction is challenging, there is a free software program which lets the student design digitally. Fortunately the program is for MacOS or Windows and is easily downloaded. It is also easy to use and understand if my two children are an indication.
Abby got a model kit for Christmas and on January 4th sent these to family members via messages.
- click to see moving parts
Obviously a sound grasp of mathematics is important in understanding Science, Technology and Engineering. Involve yourself in learning mathematical concepts and retrain your brain whilst working at numbers with your student. Make maths fun.
There are several blogs on my app mum.com.au site with tips about improving your own number skills as well as helping your child.
Help your child with maths https://appmum.com.au/how-to-help-your-child-do-better-at-maths/
I have tried to encourage my children with some number apps I have written for iPhone and iPad and androids.
One app is School Spelling Lists – designed to help with weekly spelling lists and times tables. Click on the link for a description of the app in the app store.
Link to School Spelling Lists https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/handy-homework-school-spelling/id1080283215?mt=
The app based on SBS’s Letters and Numbers TV Show gives lots of practice on Number Skills as well as forming word from given letters. It is free to download. Click on the link to learn more about it.
Link to Letters and Numbers https://appmum.com.au/app-australia/countdown-letters-and-numbers/
Robotics and Coding
Coding is something I did as a kid when computers were in their infancy. We had a Wang computer. It had no hard drive but a floppy system disc. I really liked coding but had not done any for years until I decided I would like to write apps about four years ago.
UNITY is coding software which I am trying to learn. It is a coding platform with a visual editor where you can make games. I was working on a Unity Tutorial and Abby came to see what I was doing. She said she would like to make a game and she did. She could set a scene and introduce characters which she could make move. There are opportunities for young children to learn basic coding and see the results on the screen.
Minecraft is a very popular computer game. Again this is a game which allows the game player to construct creatively and involves coding principles. Kids are learning to code without knowing it!
Computer coding and Robot Programming with Lego
Importance of STEM
In conclusion there is not doubt about the importance of STEM and this is how it is summarised nn the Lego Education websiteL
“Whether your child wants to be a doctor, drive big trucks, be a chef or create art, chances are they’ll be working with one or more of the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering or math. They don’t need to be experts at STEM – just learning the basics of coding can give them a much deeper understanding of the technologies they’ll be working with as well as the tools they need to help improve processes and workloads in their field.”