Australia is calling women and children to begin participating in their budding National Innovation and Science Agenda, just beginning to unfold as the government pours $48 million into a STEM literacy program–and another $13 million encouraging women to seek careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Funding began in December as the Australian government begins working steadily to catch up with other countries who are currently being so vocal and hands-on about getting STEM curriculums into schools–namely, the US, China, and Singapore, and with many European countries emphasizing the importance as well.
With so many hot technology companies and startups in the market today, often with hip young founders at their helm, many students–of all ages–dream of working somewhere like Apple or Google one day. These dreams can’t ever even come close to reality if students aren’t being exposed to and excelling in STEM education. And it’s widely agreed that introduction of these skills must start early, engaging little ones in play-related exercises, and then moving up. Integrating the skills early and in a fun way is, as most any teacher or parent will attest, a much better route than waiting too long and panicking older students about their futures as graduations and impending job hunts loom.
Definitely plunging in with the ‘get them while they’re young’ concept, eliminating the fear of technology (or never allowing it at all) and promoting enthusiasm early on, Melbourne’s King David School is one learning institution working wholeheartedly to see that their students do indeed graduate with the skillsets required in an increasingly global market where those coming to interviews and new positions have the STEM backgrounds offering knowledge needed for more complex jobs. Providing meaningful, real life applications, school curricula in areas such as physics show students interacting in a variety of substantial projects such as the exploration of multi-wave astronomy, where they are able to 3D print a space-based observatory.
Other STEM-related activities at the school involve the creation of the Melbourne RoboCats, a competitive all-girl team which has gone so far as to build a 50kg Cat-a-Tonic robot that they will be entering in a FIRST Robotics competition–an international challenge for high schoolers, requiring them to build game-playing robots which are entered after a six week creation process. This is part of the push to get girls involved, rather than allowing the stereotype of STEM interests and careers remain one that is characteristically thought of to be male oriented and dominated.
Kids participating at the KIOSC in Swinburne University are also heavily engaged in using items like 3D printers, laser cutters, and a range of accompanying programming tools in 3D labs, encouraged to use their creativity and see where it goes, in a low-pressure learning experience.
Part of the beauty–and excitement–in working to deliver STEM education to students and adults is that there are so many different approaches available, and this is already being exemplified in Australia. Another successful, ongoing program is to be found at Barker College in Sydney where students are actually able to be part of the Formula One program, and work to design, and build model F1 cars, which they are able to race.
Programs like these, which allow students to work with those who are involved in technology and all that encompasses STEM, offer an incredible experience, generally leaving them wanting more–and prompting the enthusiasm to look into STEM-oriented careers for which they will have already been building experience. Responsibility for seeing that kids receive the proper training for jobs falls on both the companies who want to hire them, ultimately, as well as educators. What are your thoughts on beginning STEM education in the early grades? Tell us in the Australian STEM agenda forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Australian Business Spectator]