Taking a STEM approach at Balata High School

Students starting off with the building phase

Students starting off with the building phase

As part of an outreach project supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, our team from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), designed, developed and implemented a number of different activities that tried to kill a few birds with a few stones. Science, Technology, Education, Mathematics (STEM) Education is a relatively topic in the world today. The “pundits” have different takes on this. My take (as a maths/science teacher from my previous life) is how do we can harness overlapping concepts in these subjects to optimise students learning and in do doing so, address the “silo-mentality” of teaching these subjects. In delivering this activity I was supported by Chloe Fas and Jenny Nguyen. Ronald Prasad – the maths and physics for this class worked with us in delivering the activity.

An angry bird screenshot on Geogbra showing the parabola

An angry bird screenshot on Geogbra showing the parabola

At Balata our approach was simple. Students in year 11 built robots (Engineering) and programmed it (Technology). Then they collected data to draw linear graphs (Mathematics) and understand how simultaneous equations worked. They extended this knowledge to Physics to develop their understanding of how graphs in kinematics worked (distance/displacement-time, speed/velocity- time, acceleration-time etc.). Such activities can lay the foundations for more challenging problems such as “The distance between Tavua and Rakiraki is 30km. A car leaves Rakiraki and travels at an average speed of 60km/h. Another car leaves Tavua and travels at an average speed of 75km/h”. Draw graphs to determine where the cars will pass each other. The problem can be extended to incorporate where exactly will this occur by using Google Maps.

Deeply engaged in the building process

Students deeply engaged in the building process

We used the game Angry Birds and GeoGebra to teach students about parabolic graphs. Our approach was to get students to have a play first. We then taught them to do a screen capture. This was embedded on a Geogbra page and from here the students determined the equation of the graph that aligned with the path followed by the birds.

While we spent only a few lessons with the students, it was very pleasing to see that they developed their skills and knowledge rapidly. Only 4 students in this class had access to computers at home! For all students – building and programming robots and the software Geogbra was a new experience. Surprisingly no one had played Angry Birds before. Balata organised an open day where Balata students showcased what they had learnt with our team for the visitors. It was really pleasing to see how the students explained what they had learnt…all in a very short time. Freddie Prinze Jr’s quote is noteworthy; “Living life at a young age is like being a sponge thrust into the ocean. You absorb what’s around you. If you’re around people who are supportive and positive, that’s how you look at the world”. Quality learning environments with quality teachers can make a big difference to a child’s learning.

Reflections of the Maths/Physics teacher Ronald Prasad

A new learning tool for physics and maths

A new learning tool for physics and maths students

Thanks very much for choosing our school for running ICT based classes  with our students.The classes undertaken in mathematics and Physics  were really interesting and wonderful. My Maths and Physics students have really enjoyed  all the lessons taken by your students and you.I have also enjoyed your classes as well and it was a professional development for me. By observing classes of the QUT team I have learnt a lot of strategies in the learning and teaching process. I have now realized that ICT makes learning and teaching more productive.It also increases the  effectiveness of learning and teaching process. GeoGebra is an important tool for learning and teaching mathematics that offers geometry, algebra and calculus features in a fully connected and user-friendly software environment. The use of ‘Angry Birds’ could be used to teach concepts such as quadratic graphs (as was done in classes) and projectile motion in Physics. I will be using these programs in my maths/physics classes.

The use of robotics in the Maths and Physics classes was also an interesting one and my students enjoyed  the most.They  have learnt most of the concepts that were taught to them by the use of robots. Thank you sir for providing  robotic kits and 5 laptops to maths/physics section.These resources  will be very useful in conducting maths/physics classes at Balata.

This entry was posted in 2015, Balata High School, STEM. Bookmark the permalink.

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