Anne Disney, Past President ASTA

It has been two years in the making, but in 2016 we debuted a science teacher professional development program unlike any other – the STEM X Academy five-day residential program.

We wanted the experiences offered through the STEM X Academy – including the access we provide to cutting-edge science – to feed back and innovate the students’ classroom experience into the future.

To achieve that goal, the STEM X Academy does something no other program does. Rather than providing science teachers with a package of resources to use in the classroom, we help them to acquire the skills and confidence to design, develop and implement their own STEM-based teaching resources.

Our aim is to equip teachers to better inspire and engage students, to draw on new science in the classroom and to provide fun, firsthand experience of the scientific method through inquiry-based learning.

We also want the teachers to share both their expertise and newly developed resources.

To that end, the STEM X Academy is creating connections among our alumni so that together we can build a self-sustaining community that is committed to continuous improvement and innovation in the science classroom.

This is a community that will receive ongoing support from ASTA and from the world of science and technology – both public and private – eventually drawing on alumni themselves to establish regional hubs of innovation that engage more teachers and more schools.

Central to the program are activities undertaken in Questacon’s Maker Space where science teachers can take apart existing directed and inquiry-based learning programs to see how they are constructed before learning how to design their own.

At ASTA, we deeply value our relationship with Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre in both creating and supporting the delivery of the STEM X Academy. Questacon’s expertise, staff, resources and enthusiasm are essential to taking professional learning activities to a new level. The highly appreciative feedback from participating teachers in 2016 reinforces the strength of this important relationship.

Teachers walk away with the confidence, enthusiasm and ability to create high-quality classroom activities that tap new ideas in STEM, along with membership to an innovation community that can now more properly extend from research laboratories to the science classrooms of primary and secondary schools across Australia.

We now look forward to not only running the program again in 2017, we also intend to continue to radically expand it.