Junior School

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

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STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Many jobs of the future are expected to be in STEM fields and our aim is to broaden our students’ awareness of the types and variety of exciting careers, available in these fields. We want our students to be excited by the possibilities for their future, and to believe that these are areas where they can excel.

In Junior School, an interest in STEM is encouraged from an early age through a variety of exciting initiatives and projects.

Scientist and Mathematician-in-Residence Program

The in-Residence Programs are run in conjunction with the CSIRO, and help to engage and motivate teachers and students in their exploration of Science and Mathematics. The Junior School has been privileged to be allocated two CSIRO Specialists-in-Residence to work with and enhance the learning of our students. Dr Joshua Ho will be working in Computer Coding, Mathematics and Science and Ms Rosemary Chakiath in Science.

Our ICT Specialist-in-Residence, Dr Joshua Ho, is a scientist from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales. His research focuses on discovering the genetic basis of heart disease in babies. Dr Ho develops fast computer programs to sift through billions of DNA characters in each patient to identify as little as one mistake in the DNA sequence (a mutation). His research is a good example of how computer technology is being used in medical research.

Our Scientist-in-Residence, Ms Rosemary Chakiath, is a final year PhD candidate. She works at Royal North Shore Hospital in the Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI). Her project investigates how the brain and the spinal cord are involved in the development and maintenance of pain in two clinical populations.

Year 2 – Minecraft

Minecraft is a computer game that is rich in problem solving skills. In a virtual world, students must collect objects or ‘mine’ for substances that can be used to build different kinds of 3D objects. Minecraft improves visual perception and actively encourages creativity, as the learners have control. Minecraft helps to build resilience, as things don’t always go to plan, and students need to learn to develop different strategies to overcome problems. It is also collaborative, with students helping each other to overcome obstacles.

In Year 2 Library, students collaboratively build a town. Together, students need to decide what they need in the town, and what they need to do to achieve that goal successfully.

Year 3 – Claymation

Claymation is animation, using a character, or characters, made out of clay. Students use a stop animation technique, recording each frame or still picture on a digital camera and then play the recorded frames back in rapid succession, to create an animated film.

Students write stories for their Claymation movies, usually set around a topic, for example sustainability.

Year 4 – Sphero Robotics

The STEM program in year 4 allows students to build on their prior experiences in the junior school. During this course they learn how to code a small robotic ball, called Sphero. One of their first tasks is to learn how to drive Sphero carefully around their classroom. Successful completion of this task earns them their Sphero driving licence, essential for every student to have under their belt. Students then complete various challenges with their robot such as coding a choreographed dance routine, creating light trail photographs, coding Sphero across a bridge they build and creating a Sphero solar system. This program allows students to learn and develop important skills and concepts that will be useful as they progress into year 5 and then year 6.

Year 5 – Mars Rover Maker Project

Students in year 5 learn about the planet Mars and various explorative missions sent to explore the Red Planet. The project pays particular attention to the NASA Mars Curiosity rover, which is still active and sending back regular updates to scientists on Earth. Students learn about the engineering needed to make the rover and deliver it safely to the Martian surface, the technology used to conduct science experiments and about the professionals behind this amazing mission. Working in groups of 4 or 5, students then design and build their own Mars rover from upcycled materials. They are also provided with littleBits electronics, including a small DC motor, which is used to supply power to the wheels to make them spin and propel the rover forwards. Each group also thinks of a new discovery they would like their rover to make on Mars, such as finding evidence of life or running water on the surface. The project based learning approach allows students to work collaboratively but also specialise in certain parts of the design process. The practical and creative nature of the task in constructing a model rover means girls are actively making their learning visible and are using many thinking skills in the process.

Year 6 – Building and coding intelligent machines

One of our CSIRO resident scientists, Dr Joshua Ho, works closely with the year 6 cohort as they learn to code their Lego EV3 robot to do a range of tasks. Asking questions such as, ‘Can machines think?’ and ‘Are robots intelligent?’, Dr Ho challenges the girls to think critically about concepts including artificial intelligence and machine learning to gain a deeper understanding of the role of technology in society today and in the future. Dr Ho then designs learning experiences that demonstrate these concepts. One example is the lawn bowling robot. This robot has the ability to be taught how to bowl the perfect ball, and it can then remember and reproduce this procedure many times. The work that Dr Ho has done with our year 6 students is cutting edge and has helped develop key STEM skills that are transferable across many of their other subjects.

Year 6 has also received expert help from the Robogals organisation. Robogals is an international university student-run organisation founded by the 2012 Young Australian of the Year Marita Cheng. The main aim of Robogals is to substantially increase the number of young women pursuing engineering in their tertiary studies and careers. Its primary activity is Robotics workshops, aimed at girls in Junior and Secondary School.



 

The schools featured in the Innovative Schools list cover an array of ‘innovative’ approaches from use of technology to new learning environments, curriculum design, teacher and student development and more.

Ravenswood is mentioned in the report as follows: Making musical instruments from recycled materials, designing computer programs with code, and programming robots are all part of the problem-solving, creative journey for the ‘making’-focused primary girls at Ravenswood.