Increasing participation in STEM

The Australian Government has released statements talking about their vision of an Australian society engaged in and enriched by science. The Education Council National STEM School Education Strategy (a comprehensive plan for STEM education in Australia) talks of wanting to increase student engagement, participation and aspiration in STEM.

Well, I tell you, our school is bucking the trend of declining science enrollments and has the highest senior science participation rates in the past 10 years.

All our Year 12 merits last year came from STEM subject areas (Maths Methods and Chemistry). We have gone from one Year 12 Chemistry class 8 years ago, to three classes of Year 12 Chemistry. That’s from about 16 students to 45 students enrolled in a high level science.

What do I put our success down to? Hard work over the past 5 years in the following areas:

  1. Skilled and dedicated year 12 teachers that have experience in either SACE marking or moderation so they are confident and really know the ‘ins and outs’ of their subject.
  2. Increased science presence at school entry – science puts on engaging and fun Orientation Day sessions for Year 5s and Year 7s (the year before they enter Year 6 and 8). Science also takes Year 6s on their first day of school for more science engagement and inspiration. These activities students often still remember fondly when they are in year 11 and 12. You gotta grab them early!
  3. Visible and interest-grabbing Science activities throughout the year including: Science Week (a week long of activities every August where we have lunchtime activities, guest speakers and morning quizzes), Showcase Lessons (where Year 11 science students ‘host’ a year 8 class and teach them demonstrations in their subject area).
  4. Raising the competitive nature and profile of senior science subjects to make them appealing through things like the National Titration Stakes, science quizzes, celebrating Mole Day and the perpetual Bunsen Burner cup (a gold spray painted Bunsen that we use as a trophy for the top scoring Chem student each year).
  5. Emphasising science skills and inquiry in middle years from year 7-9 so students stay engaged and participating in science.
  6.  Exposing students to successful scientists (especially those that are ex-scholars, that we run into when we visit universities for excursions) and promoting career pathways in science.
  7. Embracing the nerd with memes on classroom walls that only make sense when you know science.
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