This article was originally written for ACARA's Primary Matter's publication in October of 2017. The original post can be found here.
The Springfield Anglican College has been changing the way they are delivering the curriculum on the Primary Campus by developing problem-based STEAM units. This approach has engaged the students, fostered the development of 21st century skills and allowed students to see themselves as young entrepreneurs and agents of change.
In 2016, teachers at The Springfield Anglican College were considering ways to implement the new Digital and Design Technologies curriculum. One priority was to focus on the 21st century skills addressed in the general capabilities. Year 6 teachers Vanessa O’Shaughnessy and Sheryl Prins worked with eLearning Coordinator Laura Bain to find connections between existing objectives and revise a unit of work that included Digital and Design Technologies, and general capabilities. Initiatives such as STEAM and Problem-based Learning (PBL) provided a vehicle not only to deliver new priorities, but also to identify and combine existing curriculum into more connected learning opportunities for students.
An Inspiring Organisation
A Simple Idea
Simon Doble, CEO of Solar Buddy, visited the college and spoke with the students, describing the design features of the product and explaining the positive impact of a single solar light on the lives of children and families living in energy poverty. This event prompted teachers to encourage students to consider ways in which solar energy might be harnessed to address other needs and purposes. The unit then took a new direction: students stepped into the role of investigators, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Students formed teams, tasked with the design and development of a solar powered product that addressed a particular need or purpose.
A Learning Journey
Over the course of the term, integrating lessons across subjects played a part in the learning journey. For example, Science investigations explored electrical energy, simple circuits and energy sources. This learning formed a basis for student inquiry tasks into the impact of non-renewable energy sources and energy poverty. Geography lessons explored energy consumption and production in Australia and Asia. Students soon became experts on renewable energy and their individual inquiry topics. Technology lessons allowed teams time to work on their product designs. Students sketched design ideas, experimented with resources, and then created a prototype using littleBits and solar panels. Teams maintained a website of their design journey and documented their progress.
An Involved Community
The unit motivated students to boost community awareness of energy poverty and raise money to fund their involvement in the Solar Buddy initiative. They approached local businesses for donations and invited them to attend their Energy Expo. Students developed confidence in communicating an important message and inspiring support in their community. They were empowered by their learning to think about themselves as global citizens, agents of change, designers, engineers and young entrepreneurs.
A Special Event
A Story of Success
Teachers were impressed with the unit outcomes. The unit combined curriculum objectives in a way that solicited a high level of student engagement and motivation. Students developed skills articulated in the general capabilities. Students engaged in content covering Science, Mathematics, Design Technologies, Geography, English and The Arts, while making connections with cross-curricula priorities of the Australian Curriculum, including concepts of Sustainability and Australia’s Engagement with Asia.
As a result of the Solar Buddy initiative, students considered ideas such as global citizenship as well as ethical and intercultural understanding. Students became critical and creative thinkers and developed their personal and social capabilities as they designed their own products to help others. They also felt they had ownership over their learning, the result being that students pushed the learning deeper and the objectives of the unit further.
The video below was shown at the Energy Expo:
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