Families Magazine Article – 2018
The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, otherwise known as STEM, continue to capture headlines in the media due to the importance these subjects hold for the future of our young people.
According to employment projections released by the Department of Employment last year (http://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/EmploymentProjections), it is estimated employment in professional, scientific, and technical services will increase by over 14% in the next five years, the 2nd largest of any industry.
Whilst there are a myriad of new roles that are opening up every day in these fields, a major problem is an enormous lack of qualified younger students coming through who will fulfil the roles of the current employees once they retire, and take on new roles developing constantly. Even as early as 10 years ago jobs such as “Social media Manager” and “Mobile App Developer” simply did not exist, and it is clear that this trend of new jobs is showing no signs of changing any time soon. There has also been a considerable amount of concern about the lack of girls showing enough interest in these fields and their confidence to take their study further and ultimately, choose the path of a STEM career. Enough concern globally, in fact, for the governments of countries like the UK to invest huge amounts of money into fostering girls interest down the path of a STEM career. Therefore, this is certainly not an issue that Australia faces alone. The challenge is clear for our schools.
So why are young people today, and particularly girls, choosing not to take STEM further? And as a teacher or parent, how can we contribute towards changing this?
One of the biggest obstacles STEM subjects face is the belief that these subjects are “difficult”, “challenging”, or “boring”. As teachers of STEM subjects, we believe the key to fostering more interest is emphasising to our students that these subjects are about fun and creativity, and particularly, creativity in conjunction with problem solving, to benefit people and society. We have to move away from the direct and indirect messages we tell our young people that these subjects are “hard” and “geeky”, and it is okay not to like them. One of the most detrimental conversations we can have with our children is that “we found it difficult and boring too!” This reinforces their belief that it is acceptable to give up. Instead, the message should highlight that working hard to understand new concepts and overcome challenges is a part of life, and that perhaps they are simply not able to do it “yet”.
Teaching our young people to be resilient learners, and not giving up at the first sign of difficulty, should be the priority message, and is key to changing this mindset. For girls, this message can make all the difference.
A key motivator can be successful female professionals in areas of STEM. Access to these motivating, and often inspiring, role- models broadens knowledge and ignites interest. Parents can often also be these inspirational adults in their children’s lifes.
One of the most wonderful qualities of Clayfield College is to ensure that our girls and young boys have the ability to study the subjects they wish, with little or no STEM subjects conflicting with each other on the timetable. Our students are continually provided with a multitude of opportunities, both within and outside the classroom, to engage in STEM based activities and experiences.
STEM learning is a continuous and vital component across all Mathematics, Science and Technology classes. Inquiry based learning techniques, supported by current research- based pedagogies, are implemented to engage students and further the development of problem-solving skills. The importance and contribution of these learning areas in the development of modern day society is also referenced regularly.
Additionally students have the opportunity to engage in co- curricular STEM activities such as the STEM2PLATE Club, Double- Helix Science Club, Titration Club, Maths Club, Chess Club and Build to Fly Drone Club. Frequent opportunities are provided to interact with past students undertaking study in STEM related courses at university, visit universities, participate in STEM workshops, and engage in external competitions. By engaging with STEM concepts outside of the classroom, the aim is to highlight the importance of these subjects and their significant contribution to the advancement of society.
The new Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum has made the teaching of digital technologies (including programming concepts and computational thinking) a “core” subject alongside Mathematics, English and Science at Primary School. Young children are learning how to programme with BeeBots, Lego Wedo, Sphero, Little Bits and Ozobots (robotics and coding). Introducing young people to STEM through creative play in primary school is the key to fostering curiosity and interest. Showing children that learning how to programme, and studying Maths and Science can be “fun”, will set them up well for the further study of STEM in Secondary school.
All of these afore mentioned activities, provide our young people with different ways and means to interact with STEM on a continual and ongoing basis – in and out of the classroom. This is incredibly important, as many young people lead very busy lives filled with sport, music and other interests that can dominate their time after school and on the weekend.
Research shows us that females need to participate in STEM to make sure the experiences and needs of women are included in studies and in the design of products and services. As an example of past initiatives that did not include the input of a female, airbags in cars were first designed solely based on the weight and frame of men, which consequently, meant that women and children were actually at greater risk.
We must all take on the responsibility of building both confidence and interest in STEM. At home, parents can encourage and promote natural curiosity about the world. This stimulates engaging discussions and questions providing an opportunity to show your daughter/s that they do not have to have immediate answers to everything. If they explore and make mistakes, they can make discoveries for themselves. It is important to allow our girls to get a little messy around the house or in the garden, allowing experimenting and experiences that are not always successful the first time they are tried. Practice predicting, measuring, observing and analysing. Encourage talk about Mathematics and Science, promote it, and engage in documentaries and films. Talk about what they have learnt in STEM related classes, share their enthusiasm, celebrate their successes, encourage any failures, arouse their curiosity and get excited! But most of all, let them see these subjects are fun!
Mrs Kerry Gibbs
Head of Mathematics
Diploma of Teaching – Primary
Bachelor of Education – Mathematics
Mrs Cathy Lamb
Head of Technologies and e-Learning
Bachelor of Business
Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching
Mrs Lakshmi Mohan
Head of Science
Bachelor of Science
Masters of Science
Bachelor of Education – Mathematics and Science