Marian College, Sunshine West

STEAM Learning at Marian College

At Marian College we have embarked on a holistic school curriculum program review. In the initial phases, we have scanned the horizon and gathered input to commence the formulation of our Curriculum Vision 2021. We thereby recognised the imperative to increase STEM learning opportunities for our students. Other priorities included the development of critical thinking skills, creativity, entrepreneurship and collaboration. We understood that we also had to ensure that students would have opportunities to plan, design, create and develop a range of other deep thinking skills.  In response, our Marian College STEAM Program was launched and continues to evolve and expand.

In 2018, we introduced the Year 7 STEAM class where students have a double period (150 minutes) of dedicated STEAM learning each cycle. STEAM classes take place in open areas, with teams of teachers and students collaboratively working on problem-based projects. Within the first few weeks, they explored Lego Serious Play, designed robots of the future and visited ScienceWorks to become their own team of rollercoaster engineers, learning about kinetic energy and momentum. Then they worked as a team to produce a prototype rollercoaster complete with loop-de-loops, bank turns and corkscrews!

In the next unit, students designed and produced games using Gamestar Mechanic before taking on the role of a rescue team to provide aid and assistance to simulated natural disaster zones. Applying their new-found coding skills, the students modelled the challenges faced by a rescue vehicle in heavily damaged and unpredictable terrain in the aftermath of a selected natural disaster. Their chosen technology was the Sphero SPRK+, a spherical robot that can drive, flash and make announcements.  Students created their disaster zones and then planned and coded for their rescue mission.

The final focus is around a sustainability theme where students will design a resource for primary school-aged children that will educate them on fast fashion or food waste. They will design using Scratch coding and the product must be both interactive and engaging.

STEAM learning has also been embedded in the Year 7 Core Science Program where they have used the electronic blocks, Littlebits, to create simple machines that could make everyday life easier. The students, applying the design process, were able to be curious, use their imagination and invent amazing simple machines. They responded to open-ended questions to find creative solutions to a posed problem. Our Science students became teams of designers and inventors, developing skills for future success.

In Year 8, the dedicated STEAM learning is built into the Design, Art and Technology rotations. The students designed an App based on a unique design brief where they had to carefully consider the target audience and the user-experience journey, resulting in the production of a functional prototype.

This year, the Year 9 Science Program also integrated real-world, authentic STEAM learning as they investigated an inquiry-based question about the health of a local creek. The task required students to gather data and observations in the field and then to draw a range of conclusions requiring deep thinking. Findings were presented in a digital scientific poster. In 2019, STEAM integration into our core Science Program will be increased and planning is underway for integration of virtual reality and Arduinos in Years 8 and 9. 

Robotics was the focus of the Year 9 STEAM Elective and students built and programmed the Lego EV3 Robots to complete a range of challenges including navigating a maze and choreographing a dance. They also completed the Mars Mission where they modelled a space rover investigating the ‘red planet’ in order to determine whether Mars is able to sustain human life.

Some students also had the opportunity to attend the It Takes a Spark: Student and Teacher Conference and this same group of students has been selected to present an App they have designed at the Catholic Education Melbourne STEAM MAD (Makes a Difference) Showcase.

Our STEAM projects will be showcased, by our students and the wonderful team of teachers who have lead these initiatives, at our inaugural Marian College STEAM Showcase on 30 October. This will take place in our new Sr Martin Jones csb Science Centre where we look forward to sharing the students’ achievements and our exciting STEAM journey so far.