St Ambrose STEM program among Australia’s best

Interest in science is flourishing at St Ambrose Catholic Primary School Concord West, which is a finalist in the ‘Best STEM program’ category of the first Australian Education Awards.

The school is one of only nine across Australia to make the shortlist, which includes both primary and secondary schools. CrookED Science education consultant Dr Simon Crook has worked with the school for the past four years to help integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM] into the curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 6, and to build teachers’ capacity to teach the subjects.

We are incredibly proud of the way our students are … curious about the world.

– Linda McFadden

Since 2015, all students at St Ambrose have experienced accelerated learning in STEM. The move is part of a whole-school focus on developing students’ scientific literacy and core problem-solving skills.

Words like evaporation, condensation, precipitation and even dihydrogen monoxide are part of Year 1 students’ vocabulary when they study the water cycle. Led by STEM Coordinator Annie McKeating, Year 6 students have designed and made parallel electric circuits, and questioned astrophysicist and cosmology expert Professor Geraint Lewis about space.

Gifted students have also made use of the science labs at Domremy College Five Dock, using Bunsen Burners, making electric circuits and observing active yeast under a microscope.

St Ambrose principal Linda McFadden said students had developed their ability to think creatively and critically through biology, physics and chemistry challenges, using the design thinking model of inquiry.

“We are incredibly proud of the way our students are incredibly curious about the world around them, and seek to solve real world problems using scientific processes and concepts,” she said.

“We feel so pleased that the work of our students, our incredibly passionate and enthusiastic Science Coordinator and our partnership with CrookED Science has been recognised in this way.”

The school also held its first symposium in 2017, where gifted science students w

ho were part of the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program presented projects that answered a real-world problem.

The Newman Science Program enables students in Years 4, 5 and 6 who are gifted in the area of Science to work with like-minded peers in their scientific investigations. They also use scientific process to help explore a problem of their choice. Students’ designs at the symposium included a bike with a filter to clear air pollution, and a ball that returns to the person using it, even when dropped over the fence.

St Ambrose is also flying the flag for Catholic systemic schools in the awards, being one of only four in the shortlist of 115 schools Australia-wide.

The Australian Education Award winners will be announced on 17 August.

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