STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is an excellence elective subject running in year 7 through to year 10. The core educational philosophy of this subject is to challenge thinking and stimulate problem based learning for all students. Areas of investigation include sports science, robotics and coding, engineering, circuits, Arduino programming, food science, marine science and agriculture. This program won a Peter Doherty Award for excellence in STEM education in 2015. This program is considered a leader in education and innovation for delivery of STEM education.
Students also have the option participate in the annual Western STEM Project. The program is designed to be a guided inquiry learning task for students that will help students to develop the skills required for Open Inquiry. The project works on a three phase delivery. The first phase generates engagement. The students attend a day of experience at the Springfield Campus of the University of Southern Queensland. On the day students have a key note address from a lecturer in the STEM field and attend two hands on sessions designed to promote thinking. These sessions are varied but include space suit design, plasma balls, engineering and design challenges, paramedics and sports science. The second phase is the student led inquiry component where students head back to school and work with their teachers in small groups to design and develop an investigation or design project. The third phase is acknowledgement and recognition in the form of an awards night.
The awards night in October at The Ipswich State High School showcases student work and provides the opportunity to win prizes for the school. This night runs like a Science Fair with each student group assigned a table to display their work. Judges from the University of Southern Queensland will be interviewing each group about their project in the category of Investigation or Innovation. Trophies and prizes are awarded in the two categories of Investigation and Innovation. USQ Phoenix Radio also broadcasts live on the night from the hall interviewing staff, students and parents about their experiences. This was a hit with the students in 2014 and 2015 with many students eager to be interviewed again this year.
The STEM excellence program and the Western STEM Project provides teachers with an opportunity to integrate STEM education in a real world context that will cognitively challenge students and help them develop higher order thinking and problem solving skills. This quote from Curt Gabrielson, author of Tinkering, epitomises the purpose of STEM education at the Ipswich State High School.
“If you tell somebody something, you’ve forever robbed them of the opportunity to discover it for themselves.”