Two Catholic Schools in Manly are teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths with a state-of-the-art new “STEM” program.
Teachers at St Mary’s Catholic School and St Paul’s Catholic College were trained by the University of Sydney STEM Academy to deliver the program, which lets students choose their own areas of interest.
At St Paul’s, the Year 7 students inquired into the plight of native bees and came up with a design of bee survival kits for locals to put into their own gardens. A bee hive housing a hundred native bees was installed at the school, and students have examined the bee ecosystem from a range of perspectives.
“For example, from a Physics perspective, they look at how it stands up,” said Chris Browne, the Principal at St Paul’s. “In Mathematics, the question might be, ‘What’s the maths of the shape of the honeycomb?’ It’s using nature as an entry point for students to engage with these subjects.”
For Primary School students at St Mary’s, the same principle of inquiry applies, but the children will come up with their own research question to investigate.
“It has to be a real-world problem for them to come up with a solution to,” said Claire Shefford, a Year 3 teacher at the school and the co-ordinator of the STEM Challenge.
“We’re close to the beach so they might want to look at stormwater or wind power, or something to do with sustainability and littering,” said Paul McGuire, the Principal.
Lisa Williams, the Assistant Principal and Year 5 teacher, said the school was building a “bank” of ideas for the challenge.
“The Northern Beaches council spoke to the school about the stormwater problem in the area and we want as many people from our local community as we can to give the children as many ideas as we can,” she said.
“By choosing their own ‘challenge’ they will engage with it more,” said Mr McGuire.
St Mary’s has also created a STEM Challenge to be held across all twelve Catholic Primary Schools on the Northern Beaches. As part of the Challenge, students from all schools will be invited to present their different research questions to other schools at a Research Fair in Term 3.
“It’s not competitive, it’s more about the investigation of what they learn and demonstrating their knowledge of the scientific method,” said Mr McGuire, who added that an eminent scientist will speak at the Fair.
Fifteen hundred students in Years 3 to 6 from the twelve different primary schools are expected to participate in the Challenge, with the top two projects selected from each school to be presented at the Research Fair.