Department of Education has a STEM site

DET STEM LOGOThe Department of Education has a website devoted to STEM.

Here’s how the website tells us the Department defines STEM education:

STEM education is the learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary or integrated approach. Students gain and apply knowledge, deepen their understanding and develop creative and critical thinking skills within an authentic context. It may include inquiry and project-based learning.

For me that pretty much sums up the site as not having me, as a parent, as the target audience simply because I don’t know what the words ‘authentic context’ mean in this context. The site seems to be aimed at educators and provides a nice summary of what the Department is doing.

The information seems to be more in the way of a description of the activities lumped under the heading of STEM, than any sort of guide on what to do or how to get involved. A lot of the activity seems to focus more on that ‘integrated approach’ than on STEM per se; and while I’m all for an integrated approach to STEM it’d be nice to also see some focus on actually innovatively teaching STEM skills to a high level.

There are many schools doing activities which fall broadly into the STEM bucket. Sadly they do seem to be largely isolated projects -Year 8 students designing a car for example. And some of the projects seem to be a long stretch to be included in a mainstream definition of STEM. Here’s the entire description of one of the projects:

This unit is aligned with the Living World topic from Year 7 science. The purpose is to provide additional experience and context working within the nominated outcomes to enhance engagement and understanding. Addressing of specific content occurs directly in mainstream science lessons and assessment.

If you’re looking for an articulated STEM strategy in action this is not the place to find it. Unless the entire STEM strategy is entirely encompassed in that definition above and really means do some maths and science together with other subjects.

From a parent’s point of view the list of STEM resources might be helpful – if nothing else they’d form a good starting point for a conversation with a school about activities and competitions kids could be getting involved in.

Look, there’s some fabulous stuff being done by individual teachers and schools in the STEM space. This Departmental summary doesn’t seem to highlight the cool stuff or put the activities it does mention into a wider context. Perhaps that was never its aim, but without some authentic context (see what I did there?) the site doesn’t feel particularly useful.

If you’d like to take a look for yourself, you can find it at: www.stem-nsw.com.au.

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