A couple of weeks ago, St Paul Lutheran School hosted a Connected Schools Gifted and Talented workshop on STEM.

Miss Rebecca Mattner challenged students to protect an egg on its descent from the library balcony. In teams, students had to weigh up and design a prototype parachute that would ensure the egg didn’t break but instead of just using the materials on hand, each group had to ‘purchase’ materials within a budget that they were provided with. Needless to say, there were some outstanding ideas and designs. It was clear some students became attached to their eggs (empathy is an important part of the design process after all) judging by the fact that some ended up with names and faces. A couple may have even been ‘adopted’ and taken home!

So what is Stem? STEM education is the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in an integrated way. Sometimes an ‘A’ for Art is added to make STEAM. Thankfully the acronym still works. So why STEM? The idea is that for students to succeed in an information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM. STEM isn’t about technology, robots or coding. It’s about the way information connects in relevant ways. But this is also why the focus on STEM needs to be considered carefully. If we want students to explore links in learning, just creating a new subject can still be restrictive. Do other areas of the curriculum miss out because they ruin a catchy acronym? Why can’t English be included? Students will still be reading and writing when they do STEM. They may even be writing procedures or reports for example and these are core aspects of the English curriculum.

At St Paul the focus on ’Relevance’ in learning is one of our Pedagogical Pillars. In simple terms, this means learning is no longer seen as taking place in vertical silos but across horizontal concepts. There have been many examples of this at St Paul recently, some I have spoken about in articles in INSPIRE and others are well documented on our school Facebook page. Yes, ‘STEM’ skills are important, but they must allow students to explore concepts in Christian Studies, English and Geography etc. also. Inquiry, Play Based Learning, Design Thinking and Project Based Learnings are perfect vehicles for this and our teachers are becoming more and more skilled at crafting big questions and challenges for our students to connect with.

Jason Fay
Deputy Principal
St Paul Lutheran School

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