Together we are better: a whole school approach to STEAM
It was an enthusiastic group of Abbotsleigh students and staff who presented four workshops over two days at the Association of Independent Schools STEM Symposium and Digital Literacies Conference on 27 and 28 October. The team of Year 1 and Year 7 students, Junior School and Senior School teachers and IT Integrators shared what has been a journey of nearly two years in its design and implementation. Thank you to our presenters: Valerie Chung, Isabel Lewis, Nimue Davidson,Aariyah Selvaratnam, Hannah Cerezo, Sequoia Choate, Eloise Matthews Hornery, Loren Gorman, Terri Moore, Betina Wrightson, Kim Allan, Kathryn Fraser, Michele Scott, Amy Croft, Laurens Derks and Gemma Grainger.
The aim of our journey was to develop a whole school approach to interdisciplinary, project-based learning in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through the arts (STEAM). Prior to this, we had many activities occurring around the School but we needed to bring them together. While our beginning focus involved targeting key stages across the school, namely Early Learning, Stage 1 and Stage 4, all other stages and many other departments have engaged in a range of STEAM projects. On some days, we had five STEAM events occurring across the two campuses (read more here).
Some of the other highlights of our journey include:
• In 2017, the demand is such that a Year 11 Software Design and Development (SDD) class is being offered for the first time in many years and our Year 9 Information and Software Design Technology (IST) elective numbers have increased.
• Earlier in June this year, we held a community event entitled GLOW. Last year, this event predominantly belonged to the TAS department. This year, while the Year 9 Elective TAS work was a feature, students from Year 1, Music, Science and Mathematics were involved as were many of the Year 11/12 Service Clubs.
• The Robotics club in the Senior School has been very successful, being selected to attend the World Championships in St Louis in July. There are now so many students that three Abbotsleigh staff are engaged in this co- curricular activity and a mentor from Macquarie University supports the girls.
• Co-curricular clubs have increased engagement and STEAM pockets will be introduced from 2017 to recognise girls’ contributions in these areas.
• A Junior School Maker Education Club has been introduced and will continue into 2017.
• Junior School research projects in Mathematics and Science saw a greater participation rate this year such that an additional staff member had to be allocated to assist in this very personalised learning journey.
• Two of our Early Learning educators, Mrs Marian Doull and Mrs Caroline Surendra presented on STEAM at the national Early Childhood Australia Conference: Pedagogy and Practice in the Early Years from 5-8 October, 2016.
• Thirteen staff across the school have undertaken additional courses in STEAM and Maker Education.
• Twenty-nine staff ran STEAM-based workshops at a professional development day for all teaching staff, PreK – 12, held in June.
• On average 1-2 guest speakers from Industry per term have presented at school assemblies and to classes, including Abbotsleigh Old Girls.
As we move into 2017, our STEAM projects will continue and expand. Already we are planning an Engineering Day for our Year 8 girls and a dedicated space for girls to tinker, make and engage in the spirit of experimentation.