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Jessica Branca 

STEM Leader since December 31, 2022.

Jessica is an early childhood teacher at The Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre: FROEBEL Parkville, VIC, and has been in early childhood education for six years. She has participated in a number of professional development opportunities, including Little Scientists’ Water, Engineering, Optics, and Air workshops.  

Jessica works with a child-led emergent curriculum influenced by socio-constructivist theories. She is currently researching the decolonisation of knowledge systems and how this will change our teaching practices. She is an advocate for babies’ and toddlers’ scientific explorations, utilising their developmental stages and interests to engage in ‘whole body’ understandings of cause and effect, problem posing and solving, and sensory observations.  

Jessica’s service is situated in the medical research precinct in Melbourne and many children come from scientist families. Jessica says that the inquiry process adds depth to the educational program and improves metacognitive skills with which the children engage during the inquiry cycle. She describes the ecological model that the service has developed: Educators highlight problems and encourage children to solve them or pose their own, with the educators being a resource supplier and conduit with the broader community. By going theme-free and looking for STEM in everything, Jessica believes that the team has solved the question, “How do we honour the children’s experiences and voices in a world full of internet experiments, ‘fun science activities for kids’, and Instagram? Where is authentic scientific learning in our program?” This approach led to more responsive and organic inquiry projects and the process has sharpened the team’s understanding of STEM, Jessica has observed. The service focuses on embedding Indigenous STEM culture and understanding in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary intersection.  

Jessica encourages colleagues to learn alongside the children and be careful not to instill their own fears (of maths, for example) in the children. She encourages them to embrace their own curiosity. Jessica herself enjoys the little everyday STEM experiences with the children in her care. She talks about her experience exploring shapes with a 12-month-old: “I sat down with him on the ground, and he crawled into my lap and picked up a magnetic triangle block. I said it was a triangle and then he turned to me and touched my earrings, which were also triangles. We were both delighted that he had found these matching shapes while we had a cuddle. We bonded over joyful geometry!”  

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