This year we have introduced some exciting Science initiatives across the School including our Full STEAM Ahead Science program at Ormiston and the Year 7 Girls Invent program in Senior School Science, as well as Coding Clubs and robotics programs at both campuses.
At Camberwell Girls our secondary students have, for a number of years, been keen advocates of the Mathematics and Science programs with many continuing them into tertiary studies. Over the last two years approximately one third of Year 12 students have enrolled in Science, Engineering or Health Science courses at universities and many have been the recipients of prestigious scholarships including La Trobe University’s Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Scholarship, Monash University’s Women in Engineering and Engineering Excellence Scholarships, University of Melbourne’s National Biomedicine Scholarship and Victoria University’s Chancellor’s Scholarship.
The importance of Science graduates in Australia is being closely aligned with the need to drive the innovation agenda and future economic growth. We are all acutely aware that the nature of work is changing as we see jobs in a number of industries being modified or reconfigured by automation. Research by PwC released in 2015 indicates that over the next 20 years about 44% of jobs will be at risk from digital disruption and that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is important in building the future problem solvers and innovators that we need.
In recognising the importance of creativity and design thinking in the process of problem solving, the Arts are also highlighted, leading us to now consider the importance of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education. The focus on ensuring that girls remain engaged in these fields is essential as we ensure that females are actively contributing to these important fields of endeavor.
I have always been interested in the concept of Constructivism; learning through doing and experiencing things, then reflecting on those experiences. It is a joy to watch young children with their natural curiosity, observing the world around them, often asking endless questions and then developing their own explanations to make sense of the world. As children grow older, building and designing projects that have a purpose and ‘tinkering’ with objects to understand how they work are both important experiences that help students learn how to think creatively about solutions to problems by learning through trial and error.
In planning the refurbishment of our Science spaces in Senior School, the concepts of tinkering, building and designing have been at the heart of our thinking. In addition to traditional laboratories, we will also be creating a Makerspace. The development of Makerspaces worldwide in schools and community spaces (often libraries) are enabling young people to design, experiment, build and invent using a variety of materials. They are not solely Science laboratories, art rooms or computer laboratories, they are usually a combination of all, enabling students to learn about new tools and technologies through projects that require them to collaborate, navigate uncertainty and take risks with their learning. Makerspaces often also incorporate robotics opportunities. We are anticipating that the refurbishment of our ground floor classrooms will commence after Year 12 exams in November and will be completed during Term One in 2017. These spaces will include a Science laboratory, robotics laboratory and Makerspace. It is anticipated that the second stage including renovation of the first floor classrooms will commence in November 2017.
In expanding our Robotics program, which currently includes Dash robots, Bee-bots, Sphero robots and Lego NXT and new EV3 robotics, we were delighted that the Parents and Friends Association agreed to finance the purchase of a humanoid robot and related computer hardware. This very generous support by the Parents and Friends Association enabled us to take possession of two NAO robots last week, the other purchased by the School. One will be allocated to Senior School and the other to Ormiston. Students will be able to program the robots virtually on computers first and then download onto the robots; from simple drop and drag programming through to textual coding in the programming language of Python. This will allow implementation of a wide range of abilities for the robot, from creating interactions with people through responding to voice commands and questions, to performing a range of action from dancing to acting. I am confident that we will see some very sophisticated programming from even our youngest students!
I am delighted to announce that Tilly Kutey (Year 9) was recently identified as a top performer in the 2016 Big Science Competition. She is now one of 54 young Australian girls attending Curious Minds, a girls only program designed to encourage their continuance of STEM studies. Tilly will attend two residential camps and be part of a mentoring program. We extend our congratulations to Tilly.
As research indicates that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEAM skills and knowledge, we are committed to providing our girls with the best learning opportunities in, and across these disciplines to ensure that they are the motivated and creative innovators that the world needs. In the meantime, we also plan to have a lot of fun!
With best wishes,