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Does every student need to learn STEM skills? In short, yes. Not only does a robust base of STEM-related skills prepare students for the future but if the projects we are highlighting today are any indication, students love STEM too. This week on School Stream, we are sharing some great projects from Australia and New Zealand to show how valuable a STEM education in action can be. 

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STEM: Fast Facts

  • Australia’s workforce of 11 million people includes almost two million workers with a STEM qualification – 6% (907,639) have a university STEM qualification and 10% have a VET STEM Qualification. (Office of the Chief Scientist)
  • In September 2021, roughly 45% of jobs filled in New Zealand were in STEM-related fields. (Youth Employability Aotearoa)
  • A 1% increase in people choosing STEM careers can contribute $AUD50 billion to the Australian economy. (Training.com.au) 

Why do students enjoy STEM?

Children and teenagers are intrinsically drawn to technology, as anyone who has seen a teen edit a TikTok video can attest! STEM fosters creativity and imagination alongside learning from inquiry-centric assignments that can solve real-world problems. We are applying STEM skills every time we make a budget, bake, workshop how to solve a problem, and even when we jump online to share a spreadsheet or document. For students, being equipped with STEM skills also offers a feeling of security and direction, as students are well aware that innovation and technology are the gateway to well-paying, meaningful jobs in the future. All in all, what’s not to love? 

1. Cooling the school in the Northern Territory

A project designed to raise the profile of STEM subjects has seen success in one Northern Territory school. (For international readers, the Northern Territory sees some very hot weather). Students were tasked with heat mapping the school and trialling different ways to beat the heat. This comment from a participant is the stuff teacher dreams are made of:

“I never really thought about going into STEM, but after this I might look at it more because it’s actually really fun… “Honestly I didn’t really know about STEM subjects until getting into this and then meeting people who are doing it … I want to study psychiatry which involves STEM, learning about biology and medicine… I’m excited to go into that world and put my own self into it.” ABC 

2. Primary-age inventors promote water conservation in South Australia

A challenge facilitated by SA Water and IT company Makers Empire kickstarted a whole lot of creativity and innovation in primary students at a school in the state’s Riverland region. Two of the impressive inventions include a water timer for the shower that automatically turns the water off when it’s time to get out and a no-spill drinking device for pets. Pretty impressive for Year 3 kids armed with nothing more than a 3D printer and their imaginations!

(ABC Riverland) 

3. STEM works wonders in New Zealand

We have lift-off! The Wonder Project is an initiative of Engineering New Zealand and is designed to ignite wonder and spark excitement for the wonderful world of STEM. It’s a free program for schools and is delivered by volunteer Wonder Project ambassadors, who are generally STEM professionals passionate about guiding the next generation. Students in rural North Otago built rockets and learnt about propulsion and aerodynamics – all explained in kid-friendly language. There are several classroom challenges to choose from, and they’re all aligned with the Kiwi curriculum. With a Wonder Ambassador describing it as “low input, maximum output” the project has a whole lot of potential to build enthusiasm for STEM from a young age.  (Otago Daily Times) 

4. Designing playable video games

We’ve spoken previously about the intrinsically engaging nature of video games, and about the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge. As the winners of Year 5-8: Playable game – Open Category with their game Undefeated by The Ums, these Midcoast NSW students are a testament to how exciting, rewarding and educational it can be to design a game from the ground up. Their teacher describes the process as an opportunity for the students to develop critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. It goes without saying, the students were raring to go when they heard what their project would be. Sounds like a win all round to us! (Teacher Magazine)


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