Ask Our Lady of Mercy Catholic College Burraneer’s Year 7 students what they like about the STEM classes they’ve taken part in this year and the answer is in the action.
“I like that it’s very hands on and that you get to experience lots of things,” said Kiri Vanzano, who has tested the merits of traditional and alternative beehive structures and built mini-rockets with her peers.
Now, they are excited to be able to continue to solve real and often complex problems through the iSTEM elective their school will offer to Years 9 and 10 students from next year.
When it comes time for them to choose electives, the school will be more than six months into delivering the subject that was developed with industry feedback and approved by the NSW Education Standards Authority. It incorporates mechatronics, aerodynamics, engineering, 3D CAD/CAM, aerospace and motion modules, to challenge their understanding of science and mathematics while giving them the skills to manage projects and work in teams.
Science and STEM co-ordinator Tess Waterhouse said the elective and junior classes had led to a renewal of interest in Maths and Science across the 7 to 10 college, and excitement for the possibilities that an integrated approach to both subjects provides students.
“We have had such an overwhelmingly positive response from the girls,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“They absolutely love STEM – the collaboration and communication, working together as a team on a focused project, and critical thinking.
“iSTEM gives them an elective outside of the more traditional choices. It has firm links with industry that feed back to the course director who may modify the syllabus. That industry-down approach helps us to ready the students for careers of the future.”
Year 7 student Zoe Farrugia and Tori Sheffield are also considering the elective.
“It’s really cool when you can build something yourself rather than looking at something someone else has done,” Zoe said. “It’s a really good experience and it helps you to think outside the box.”
Tori said it was a misconception that girls preferred the so called soft skills of STEM over the practical and building-based elements of lessons.“Most girls do actually like being hands-on in their learning,” she said. “It gets you more intrigued in what you are learning about.”