Actually, our STEM at my school is generally covered through the interdisciplinary approach. We use Design Thinking as a common structure to design and implement STEM units of learning and we also have a lot of investigations and personal projects as central to our student learning program. The only specialists we have are PE, Visual Arts and Spanish and my role is to help upskill where needed to get the STEM learning up and running quickly, and to also co-teach and coach with teachers in the classroom. For example, a class is investigating simple systems (pulleys and planes) through looking at designing their own playground equipment – if they want to prototype their designs using Lego WeDo then I can familiarise everyone with the technology so that it can be utilised for the intended learning.
We are a disadvantaged school with 60% ESL so the “inspiration” programs are supplied with the intent of providing opportunities for students who would not otherwise get that chance. I know that there are many private schools where it is about showcasing the cream, but honestly, for my students participating the key ingredient is commitment. If I look at my team that got to go to Sydney last year – they were still learning how to code and still have yet to master use of colour sensors, their robot was a slightly modified “booklet” EV3 robot, their project lacked quite a lot of depth but they connected really well as a team and that was where they found success.
You mention the cost – but that is a reality in our society for anything that is remotely team related. If my son wants to play in an interstate basketball carnival, there is a cost involved. Performing arts groups also do that, language exchange opportunities abound. I don’t have a problem with that – a school like mine will have to work pretty hard to gain funding while an elite private school can just add it onto the fees. We funded last year’s trip with a Federal Government grant that is specifically set aside for STEM based competitions. So, for me, the cost is no different to a large number of other pursuits that can start out of the school environment via a drama, music, or sports starting point – it is great that there are high level pathways that can be followed for the STEM enthused students. And none of that is guaranteed – lots of factors play into whether a team can even get to the stage where they are seeking any funds.
Agreed, that if this is all a school is doing towards catering for students’ STEM needs then priorities are out of whack. I feel confident that this is not the case in my own professional situation.