Little Scientists wraps up second biennial educator conference
Jason Roberts from the publication, The Sector recaps the 2-day Sonic Boom educator conference.
The event, held in Sydney at the Holme Building on the University of Sydney campus, took place over two days with the first combining keynote speakers and introduction to STEM workshops and the second dedicated to workshops with the topics of acoustics, air and optics and how activities can promote these STEM topics in an early years setting.
This year saw the keynote given by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, the globally recognised astrophysicist and Australia’s first Women in STEM ambassador. Professor Harvey-Smith’s address was then followed with a set by much loved Play School presenter and children’s music artist, Justine Clarke and the day was wrapped up with Dyson senior engineer and air purification expert, Tom Mogridge.
Workshops serve to introduce STEM to delegates and provide support in implementation
Post the keynote speeches the 115 delegates then commenced the Day 1 workshop program which focused on introducing the concept of inquiry based STEM learning and how it fits into the NQF and EYLF through participation in four hands on workshops titled “Join the Little Scientists family”, “The values, principles and practices of STEM”, “Learn to unlock the wonders of STEM”, and “Working with what you have got.”
The second day, which was entirely STEM topic focused, saw delegates participate in workshops that used the Little Scientists tools and materials to help design activities that would introduce inquiry-based learning concepts into educators’ and teachers’ programming practices. The workshops enhanced STEM knowledge whilst remaining true to the existing learning frameworks such as the EYLF and NQS.
Commenting on the workshops, Sibylle Seidler, Project Director Little Scientists, noted “Little Scientists upskills educators in building co-constructed learning environments and educators who engage in our training feel more confident in embedding STEM exploration in their classrooms.”
Acoustics, Air and Optics workshops focus of Day 2
Acoustics, air and optics were the subjects of each workshop, with predetermined learning outcomes within each topic providing the basis to build activities that would introduce children to the STEM concepts within them.
Examples of learning outcomes included but were not limited to a world of sound including silence (acoustics), exploring children’s concepts of colours, mirrors and shadows, because who doesn’t like sparkles (optics) and discovering that air is not nothing through touch, sound and movement (air).
Although only 3 topics were addressed at the conference, Little Scientists have developed a total of 10 STEM workshop topics that in addition to Acoustics, Optics and Air include Chemical Reactions, Mathematics, Computer Science, Water, Engineering, Human Body and Design and Technologies with over 6,000 educators having participated in workshops from across Australia.
Although new to Australia, Little Scientists is Germany’s largest early education initiative
Not-for-profit early education provider FROEBEL Australia brought Little Scientists to Australia as a subset of a larger enterprise focused on STEM related early education activities based in Germany.
The non-profit “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation is committed to excellent early education in the domains of science, technology, computer science, and mathematics with the aim of strengthening children for the future and enabling them to act in a sustainable way.
Together with its local network partners, Little Scientists provide a nationwide professional development programme that supports pedagogical staff at early childhood education and care centres, after-school centres, and primary schools in facilitating the exploration, inquiry, and learning of preschool-aged children.
Olde Lorenzen, Managing Director of FROEBEL Australia and the driving force behind Little Scientists Australia noted “The conference celebrates and responds to the national footprint we have built over the last couple of years, bringing together early childhood educators from all States and Territories and providing a significant platform for professional exchange on early STEM education.”
Mr Lorenzen went on to say that “We encourage organisations to take a very considered and strategic approach to integrating STEM in their curriculum through professional development. Because our program aligns so well with the EYLF, Little Scientists can help organisations in building their capacity in early STEM quickly and sustainably, utilising Little Scientists’ evidence-based program and relying on rich, best practice resources.”