Planning An Integrated Primary School STEM program?

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When I started planning to teach as a specialist STEM teacher in a primary school, I assumed there would be plenty of programs in existence already that facilitate the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Science) skills in an integrated manner through the primary school years. It turns out that this isn’t the case. As identified in the Australian Council for Educational Research (June 2016) ‘From concept to classroom Translating STEM education research into practice‘ paper, there are none.

In fact the deeper you look into the research, the more problematic an integrated STEM education program is for a primary school setting. This is particularly in the area of students being able to transfer knowledge between the STEM subjects. It turns out that it takes a lot of knowledge and experience with just one subject before this knowledge can be applied in another subject area.

A further issue surrounding planning an integrated STEM in a primary setting is that there is no agreement on what STEM education is. For instance, is STEM education just programming a robot, coding using Scratch (my giggle over that name is never going away) or is it learning how plants grow and plotting the results using Google Sheets?

For the sake of my sanity, I am going with STEM being basically all about problem solving. As a teacher, that is not much help when it comes to planning as somehow a STEM master plan must somehow link in with the Australian Curriculum documents. Given there is not ‘Engineering’ document for a primary setting, that isn’t much help.

For accountability reasons, I decided to use the two Australian Curriculum – Technology documents as the basis of my initial planning. It is a great decision from a reporting viewpoint. It gives me something to base work samples around which I then provide to classroom teachers. However, this still didn’t give me an integrated primary STEM program!

Now read An effective primary school STEM program should …