Practical STEM education program introduced at John Pirie Secondary School

John Pirie Secondary School is preparing its students for the future by introducing new learning programs that will help them develop practical, marketable skills.

The programs focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning, or STEM, and include a range of new classes and activities.

Literacy in STEM can significantly benefit students’ career opportunities, and the school is addressing this by giving the students a chance to apply their learning to real-world situations.

One such program is being taught by maths teacher Nyasha Tulloch and tech teacher Josh Wright, who are combining their disciplines to help year 8 students design and build a Jenga set.

Jenga is a game based around stacking wooden building blocks to make a tower, and engineering these blocks is the main challenge given to the students.

The two-week course covers standard topics from the year 8 curriculum like calculating dimensions, volume, percentages, shape nets, surface area, material costs and ratios, but does so in a more engaging way than learning straight from a textbook.

“The students are able to show you their understanding in ways that you wouldn’t expect,” said Mrs Tulloch.

“Some of them surprised me in terms of how much they understood.” 

The students work in small groups and are encouraged to delegate roles wherever possible, preparing them for a real-life team environment.

Year 8 student Elyshia Ogston was enthusiastic about the program, and has enjoyed taking a more hands-on approach to learning.

“It’s pretty fun,” Elyshia said.

The course gives students a taste of the school’s STEM learning initiatives, which combine aspects of subjects like science and maths into a single class.

Next semester year 9 students will be looking at the physics and mathematics involved in building a boat, studying density and flotation as well as conducting research and presenting their findings.

Another class will examine the science and technology behind dragsters, focusing on applying aerodynamics and Newton’s Laws of Motion.

This focus on STEM for younger year levels is a way to familiarise the students with STEM concepts and encourage them to pursue further study in the field.

“If we can engage them more in science and maths at years 8 and 9, we’ll hopefully have more students who study it in years 11 and 12, which means they’ll be more employable and more likely to get jobs,” said Mrs Tulloch.

STEM education is not limited to the classroom, with the school looking to develop a computer coding club and provide cross curricular activities that incorporate science, technology, engineering and maths.

The school’s STEM facilities are also receiving an upgrade with the redevelopment of its Science Laboratory area and Junior Technology Workshop, as well as with the purchasing of a three-dimensional printer and a laser cutter.

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