Keeping up with change
Students need skills to flourish in careers and industries not yet even imagined. Writes The Age on Sunday 16 October 2016.
St Catherine’s School principal, Michelle Carroll, recently walked into a crime scene during a morning STEM session for Years 5 and 6 students, and had to negotiate her way past police tape surrounding a forensic investigation unit.
No offence had been committed. What she saw was an example of the ingenuity, creativity, confidence and analytical problem-solving skills St Catherine’s fosters in all its students from early learning through to Year 12.
“I was met by a group of budding detectives determined to solve an imaginary missing puppy mystery using the scientific techniques they’d learned to collect evidence like soil sampling, fingerprints and footprint casting,” Mrs Carroll says. “It was wonderful to observe the girls’ brilliant teamwork and collective problem-solving strategies as they differentiated between fact and opinion and built a persuasive argument based on the evidence they uncovered.”
St Catherine’s is a leader in delivering STEM and TIDE (technology, innovation, design and engineering) education across the entire school – streams of learning leading educationalists say will hold the key to success in a rapidly changing world.
“In fact we are equipping our students with the skills necessary to flourish in careers and industries not yet even imagined,” Mrs Carroll says.
“In Year 5 for instance, students engage in a weekly ‘genius hour’ that allows them to research any topic that interests them. This allows students to be creative with their education and develops skills like collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking; all essential for careers of the future.”
Students at St Catherine’s can learn computer coding, develop electronic circuitry, do hands on 3D design and construction, explore forensic science, investigate renewable energy by making solar-powered boats, and devise their own scientific projects through alliances with the Australian Academy of Science and the CSIRO.
“We also embrace the innovative experiences virtual and augmented reality can bring to the classroom,” says head of digital learning and practice, Alex Borlenghi. “Year 10 history students recently created posters about World War Two that come to life with embedded video when scanned with a smart phone.”
In 2017, St Catherine’s will open a technology and engineering centre, the first for any Australian school, equipped with the latest augmented and virtual reality hardware and software, and learning areas with engineering workspaces and 3D printers.
“The centre will transform the way our curriculum is delivered,” Mrs Carroll says. Students will be taken beyond the textbook through state-of-the-art technology to learn complex and unforgettable lessons firsthand.
“Our STEM-based curriculum creates authentic experiences that project students from conventional classrooms into the real world. We provide ‘hands-on and minds-on’ lessons that make learning fun and engaging.
“We have also introduced a mathematics honours program in the senior school to give a breadth of mathematical experiences to students, develop their analytical and problem-solving skills and, most importantly, foster a sustained enthusiasm for maths.
“Recent studies found girls at single-sex schools grow more confident in maths than in co-educational schools. We offer an environment where they are more willing to take educational risks, make mistakes, ask questions and compete.”