Academy teams with Little Scientists to campaign for Australian STEM education

STEM is for everybody-this is the message that prominent Australians in science, technology, engineering and maths are championing as part of a joint campaign by the Australian Academy of Science and Little Scientists to promote science education.

The campaign, ‘Solving tomorrow’s problems starts today’, highlights the importance of STEM education in building the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are essential for all Australians.

A boy working on a maths exercise
The Academy and Little Scientists are campaigning for STEM education to remain a key focus for the government. Photographer: Sonia Lear

“We really need to prioritise STEM education because there’s absolutely huge challenges facing the world: climate change, the challenge to preserve the environment and now with the pandemic, huge health challenges,” said acclaimed mathematician and Academy Fellow Professor Cheryl Praeger, recipient of the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. “All of this is going to need committed, enthusiastic young people, and they’re all going to need strong STEM skills and be passionate problem solvers.”

Professor Praeger, along with celebrated mathematician and presenter Adam Spencer, features in the Academy’s ‘The Latest from Science’ webshow this week. The two mathematicians discussed how maths is shaping this century, and how we can help the younger generation fall in love with STEM.

“Even if you don’t see yourself being a lifelong scientist … just bringing out more mathematical thinking and skill into the toolkit that you carry around [in your head] will carry you through the rest of your multi-career professional life,” enthused Dr Spencer, who is a best-selling author and a self-described “maths geek”.

The importance of supporting teachers

The mathematicians highlighted the importance of facilitating excellent STEM learning outcomes by supporting teachers through STEM education and professional development programs, such as the Academy’s education programs Primary Connections, Science by Doing and reSolve: Maths By Inquiry, as well as Froebel Australia’s Little Scientists program. Little Scientists partners with community leaders in early STEM learning and administers the certification program, Little Scientists House.

A diverse group of Science & Technology Australia STEM ambassadors, awardees of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching, and Little Scientist network partners have also reached out to the Minister for Education and other members of parliament to ensure that investment in STEM education remains a key focus for the government in the upcoming federal budget.

Academy resources invaluable for students

STEM educators Dr Marj Colvill, Dr Ken Silburn and Sarah Chapman, all recipients of the Prime Minister’s Prize, said the Academy resources have been invaluable in assisting educators to provide creative, innovative and engaging learning experiences for primary and secondary students.

“In a year in which we face unprecedented national and global challenges, it has never been clearer how important it is to sustain the STEM pipeline,” said Dr Silburn. “I have seen the awe and captivation that students have when they are presented with science being taught as a hands-on subject by experienced, well-resourced and trained teachers.”

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