Geoff Quinton, President, Australian Science Teachers Association

In creating the STEM X Academy, the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) created a place for teachers within the scientific community – a place that allows the challenges faced in STEM classrooms to be subjected to inquiry-driven processes of innovation. ASTA’s president, Geoff Quinton, says the STEM X approach has proven extremely popular with teachers, with demand growing fast for the flagship summer school program.

“Each year, the program has been oversubscribed,” he says. “We were able to nearly double intake in 2017 thanks to the partnership with CSIRO and more growth is possible with additional partners. Ultimately, however, the program needs to keep to relatively small groups of teachers if the program is to deliver meaningful experiences. That meant creating alternative pathways to reaching more classrooms.”

The solution to the growth conundrum was found in the program’s very successes. In providing an intimate, immersive, inquiry-based and science-rich professional development program that is unlike any other, the STEM X Academy created a new resource – a pool of upskilled, passionate and inspired STEM X Academy alumni.

Geoff says that part of the training provided through the STEM X Academy allows teachers to gain expertise in designing, testing and implementing relevant, inquiry-based classroom activities. The alumni are then empowered to pool these resources and share them – along with new ideas and classroom experiences – through an alumni-run STEM X network.

“The alumni network is thriving, its impacts on classroom activities are gaining pace and its reach is increasing to schools outside the network across Australia, ”Geoff says. “We view the STEM X network as an extremely valuable upskilling resource and we support its growth. Currently, we are looking at ways to formalise its existence and link the network with local teachers’ associations.”

The network’s impacts go beyond the sharing of classroom resources. The alumni offer colleagues, schools and teachers’ conferences a doorway to the world of contemporary research and a rapport with the research questions and the methods that drive Australia’s innovation system.

Even though the STEM X program was structured to generate its own outreach momentum, a regional model of the STEM X Academy flagship program has been trialled in Townsville, Queensland, in 2017. The two-day program taps regionally based research organisations to provide teachers with access to genuine STEM-driven research activities.

“We want to light a spark in STEM teachers and empower them to create new possibilities for STEM classrooms across Australia,” Geoff explains. “We want that rapport for STEM subjects and inquiry-based learning to resonate with the nation’s own leading research priorities and engage STEM professionals whose research questions can capture the imagination of young minds.”