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News 5 January 2016

Innovative programme blazes way for STEM teaching

Innovative programme blazes way for STEM teaching

STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – is a key priority for governments and educators seeking to equip young people for success. It is also a major concern for companies that want to contribute to economic development and build a pipeline of talent for the energy sector and other industries.

Future Makers logoAs part of its global portfolio of investment in STEM education, BG Group is supporting an innovative approach to improve teaching in Australia. Thirty-six schools across the state of Queensland are taking part in an exciting programme bringing STEM into classrooms in a new way.

The University of Queensland’s School of Education is studying what effect the initiative has on learning at seven pilot schools.

So far, 510 students have gained new skills directly from the programme which is changing the way teachers teach these vital subjects.

The programme is the result of the three-year, AUS$3.95 million (US$2.88 million) Future Makers partnership between natural gas producer QGC, a BG Group company, and the Queensland Museum Network.

With the aim of creating a whole-of-life approach to STEM education, Future Makers is a response to evidence showing the number of Australian school students participating in STEM subjects is declining significantly.

A 2011 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found the average time spent on science in Australian schools was 5.7%, below the OECD average of 7.4%.

It also found Australian 15-year-olds have slipped in mathematics by the equivalent of half a year’s schooling in the last 10 years.

Future Makers wants to change that. It aims to increase students’ uptake and performance of STEM subjects and careers, and to be a driving force for innovative STEM education and culture in Queensland and Australia.

Of the 36 schools involved in Future Makers, to date seven are hosting a pilot STEM education programme and 29 are participating in “Creative Labs”, a teacher professional development programme.

Chinchilla State High is one of those taking part in professional development on the delivery of STEM.

Maths and Science Head of Department Jackie Beck said involvement in the program has seen their students thrive in science.

“We have adopted a way of delivering the curriculum which is relevant and engaging to all students, regardless of their academic ability,” she said.

“Students who find the work challenging are finding success in a subject where they struggled to do so previously and those students who have always enjoyed learning science are thriving in this new learning environment.”

Ms Beck said student progress was tracked over the year.




Future Makers show students the wonder of science


Comparing school subject data from the end of Semester 1 showed 46% of students got a ‘High Achievement’ rating or higher.  Semester 2 data shows that figure has improved considerably and is now at 64%.

QGC Managing Director Tony Nunan said part of what QGC wanted to achieve in undertaking the partnership was to inspire future innovation and industrial development.

“The sciences are going to play an increasingly important role as the Queensland economy responds to changes in growth and one of the biggest challenges is encouraging young people to choose careers in STEM,” he said.

“To increase the number of students studying STEM we need to be delivering resources into classrooms now.”

Queensland Museum Network CEO and Director Suzanne Miller said the collaboration was unique and allowed the programme to draw on the museum’s vast resources and artefacts.

“Future Makers is about engaging and inspiring Queenslanders in the wonder of science,” she said.

“With industry professionals from both QGC and the Queensland Museum available to offer real life expertise and insight, we can have a real impact.”

Years 6 and 9 classes in Chinchilla, Brisbane and Gladstone took part in the pilot over the past year.

It focused on earth sciences, in line with the national curriculum, to inject learning strategies to encourage creative thinking, investigation and team work.

Almost 140 teachers have been involved in teaching, providing feedback on how the programme is faring.

The Future Makers partnership will be delivered in four distinct areas:

  • Intervention programme with schools:  currently seven schools are involved in a STEM pilot project that includes the use of museum resources and the engagement with industry professionals. These are North Lakes State College, Chinchilla State School, Chinchilla State High School, Gladstone Central State School, Gladstone West State School, Toolooa State High School and Tannum Sands State High School.
  • Teacher professional development: Delivered through the Queensland Museum’s Creative Labs professional development program.
  • Public engagement: Supporting exhibitions and events in Brisbane and the regions.
  • Research:  Measuring and evaluating the impact and results of the STEM education project in partnership with The University of Queensland.

Top photo:
Students at North Lakes State College explore the wonder of science at the launch of the STEM education partnership between QGC and Queensland Museum in June 2015