Teachers attended a 2 day professional learning program at UTS where they we upskilled in project-based learning, design thinking, and integrated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). During this time they heard from STEAM practitioners from UTS and the Department of Education to gain inspiration and ideas while they designed their individual programs. They then brought their driving questions back to their institutions to run the program with their girls. Driving questions included:
Can our school’s trash be treasure?
How can we build a space that sparks joy?
How can we, as concerned citizens, use technology to foster a connection with our aging citizens?
How can we use technology to make people smile?
Students would work within these overarching questions to tackle an individual problem in their school or community using STEAM. At the conclusion of the program, students would have the chance to pitch their solutions to their class, school, families, community members, etc. Solutions ranged from solar powered watering trucks to devices to assist students with disabilities to initiatives to encourage young children to recycle.
Teachers found the program to be impactful both on themselves and on their students. Teachers found that the program enhanced their ability to use problem based learning and design thinking, using the program as a way to “dip a toe in the pool.” They noticed that the program also increased their students’ confidence in STEM, academically, and even socially.
“Through their work, students learnt that what they were doing had purpose and they were excited and engaged with the potential of STEM.” – STEAMPunk Teacher
The students themselves enjoyed the program and learnt more about what it means to have a career in STEM as they were able to step into the shoes of a STEM professional. They liked being able to physically create a product.
“I loved collaborating with others to create our own idea and seeing our vision actually come to life” – STEAMPunk Girl
Analysing pre and post-program survey results for 53 students, the girls overall increased in their self-belief that they had what it takes to work in STEM fields which correlated with a drop in their belief that there are barriers to women working in these fields.
“I learnt that woman are capable in all STEAM subjects, not just men” – STEAMPunk Girl
These exemplary results are our proof-of-concept that young women exceed when given the agency to tackle real-world problems in a supported environment using key STEM problem-solving skills. Our most valuable result can be summarised best by one student’s response (edited for clarity):
“I learned through the STEAMPunk Girls project that we are capable of doing anything we put our minds to.”
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