Full STEAMM ahead at Hughes Primary School!

We’ve touched on STEM a couple of times in this blog, and we know that ACT public schools are investigating all the different ways that STEM learning can be applied to them.

At Hughes Primary, STEM has been a core part of the curriculum since 2014, when JASON learning was introduced to the students in year 5 and 6. The JASON curriculum aligns with the Australian Curriculum and provides comprehensive materials and activities to support the teaching of STEM subjects.

STEAMM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Media arts

As this approach became more embedded, Hughes Primary recognised the need to develop other crucial skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving (often referred to as some of the "21st Century Skills"). This has led to the development of the school’s current approach, which brings the arts and media arts into the regular learning of the students. These areas are being embedded into the everyday learning of the school, through inquiry and the strategic use of embedded specialist teachers. The results are already visible, in the high quality student artworks on every wall and the obvious engagement of the students.

The staff have created a concepts based curriculum completely formed from the Australian curriculum, and the vast majority of units created have the STEM foundation.

What does Hughes Primary do to integrate STEAMM learning?

One of the key elements of the success of the STEAMM program is the targeted recruitment of specialist teachers. Aaron is the dedicated ICT/technology specialist, who teaches specialised digital technologies lessons and runs activities like the very popular coding club. The coding club meets Thursday mornings before school and with the support of parent helpers/IBM representatives and YouTube videos the students learn to use programs like Scratch and CSFirst. The students I spoke to at coding club love the ability to mix computer skills with creativity: “I like that there is something that you have to do, but you can add your own twist and do something a bit different.”

Aaron’s teaching space reflects the school’s diverse approach to STEM learning and includes a 3D printer, a variety of robots, a range of devices and resources and activities to promote many different kinds of thinking and learning. He’s done such a great job engaging Hughes Primary students that those needing a bit of space always nominate to spend time with him.
Hughes Primary also employs an arts specialist, and the results of their work is evident when walking around the school. Beautiful and colourful art works abound, and reflect a deep connection with the learning.

It's not just specialists

One of the great things about the STEAMM program is that everyone gets involved. For two years, Friday afternoons have been a hive of activity as students from years 2-6 select a STEAMM elective and work in cross-aged interest groups. Teachers align their passion for any of the STEAMM areas with the Australian Curriculum and projects are undertaken to quench the thirst of every learner. Workshops have included: ipad digital photography, scratchwalls, robotics, knitting, aquaponics, woodwork, Beatboxing, History of Art, bridge construction, Fairy Garden beautification, Maths in Art, Business enterprise, and so much more!

Their newly updated hall includes an amazing array of theatre-quality fixtures., perfect for rehearsing school shows! The school recently staged a performance of The Lion King which needed a bigger theatre due to its popularity, but the hall is well-used by the school for many other events. 

Day-to-day work reflects the philosophy too

That’s not to say that technology or art is limited to the specialised classes. While at Hughes I visited the year 6 classroom, where technology is a daily focus through ‘Lightning Learning’. 

This not only provides some important settling time each morning, but also gives students the chance to choose activities that suit them and their learning on any given day.

Organised on a Google Site, the students have access to a range of online activities such as Matific, Study Ladder and GeoGuesser, as well as Scootle Learning Paths and material to support the current learning focus of the class. They can also sign up for time with the electronics kits or work on Personal Interest Projects (PIPs).
On the morning I visited, it was raining, which can be a pretty tough way to start the school day, but I watched as the year 6 students trickled in between 8:40 and 9am, all pulling out devices and getting stuck straight into their Lightning Learning tasks. They were clearly engaged and organised; not a bad way for year 6 students to be!
I asked their teacher Michael what the students thought about Lightning Learning. Here are a couple of their responses:

“Today on Wonderopolis, I learnt why Dog's noses are wet, and why we have different timezones! It was great! I learnt about GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and that dogs tend to lick their noses a lot (especially during meals).” -Ryan

“I did Wishball! It was so fun but really hard! I loved how you had to try and get to the target number. I only got to the target number twice! I loved how you couldn't know what the next number was. This was really challenging for me!” -Oliver

Hughes Primary School has a really nice buzz about it. The kids are keen and switched on, the school looks great and all the teachers and executive staff I spoke to positively bristled with enthusiasm. It's obvious that the STEAMM program is having an effect. We're interested to see where it will take them next!