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STEM Workshops for the WA Foundation for Deaf Children

Adapting programs for diverse groups strengthens accessibility to STEM for all West Australians.

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STEM Club explores the design process of ‘think, build, test’ and immerses year 4 – 6 students in science, technology, engineering and maths concepts, through fun hands-on projects with imaginative themes.

It is a component of the Science After School program Scitech has delivered in partnership with Woodside since 2004.

Students are introduced to engineering design and tool-handling skills in a safe learning environment, where they can take constructive risks and develop resilience to failure by building ambitious designs.

The program is delivered in two distinctive streams – the 16-week Tinker and Create series where students explore creative problem-solving using tools and household items, and the 8-week Robotics and Tech series where students learn about coding and mechatronics.

Workshops involve activities to develop the 21st century enterprise skills of problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. They aim to increase student’s awareness of how STEM is relevant to their everyday lives, the desire to find out more about STEM and to engage in STEM related subjects at school.

All activities are informed by the concept of Constructivism, which aims to build new conceptual understanding by drawing on existing knowledge, and Constructionism, where you learn by building.

The WA Foundation for Deaf Children wanted to increase accessibility to STEM concepts and experiences for deaf and hard of hearing children, so they approached Scitech for a program that would suit their needs.

STEM Club was identified as the best option to enable accessibility to quality and in-depth STEM experiences, for an audience with particular needs. The program could easily be delivered on a Saturday morning at various locations without compromising activities, plus the four modules from the Tinker and Create series could be delivered over the four school terms.

However, the main adaptions to the program were to actively involve parents and carers in the sessions and to provide a second Scitech presenter, trained in Australian Sign Language, to accommodate deeper engagement and understanding.

Term one was a great success with families completing the “Simple Machines” module by designing and building their own cardboard automata.

The children’s feedback was universally positive, with most sharing that building their machine and learning how to make it spin and turn was their favourite part of the experience. There were a few who also mentioned the highlight of learning about the properties of hot glue!

Several parents shared that they thought it was a good initiative and would like to continue to engage in this way.

Feedback from evaluation forms showed that:

  • 88% of participants learnt something new.
  • 63% of participants want to find out more about STEM due to this experience.
  • 75% of participants intend to study STEM related subjects in the future.

Jenelle Macri from the WA Foundation for Deaf Children gave a 5 out of 5 rating for the level of children’s engagement throughout the workshops, and 4 out of 5 for:

  • the overall benefit to the participating children, and
  • the participants increased understanding in STEM and its relevance to their lives.

All parents, children and the WA Foundation for Deaf Children were unanimously excited about the next series in Term 2, “Take to the Skies”, where participants will investigate the concept of flight by designing, building and testing a glider.

In Term 3 and 4, students will explore electrical energy by designing their own wearable tech in “Electrifying Circuits” and build machines powered by stored potential energy in “Motion and Energy”.

Scitech’s programs are designed to be distinctive and spark curiosity, opening the doorway to an inspiring and sustained learning journey which develops the STEM skills and knowledge of participants, to contribute to WA’s future confidently, critically and creatively.

By adapting our programs to cater to specific needs of diverse groups, Scitech can achieve deeper impact in the Western Australian community in alignment with our commitment to the WA Government’s State STEM Strategy, specifically in relation to ‘Diverse Backgrounds’ – to enhance participation of people from all backgrounds in STEM.

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