Teacher and STEM integrator at Peninsula Grammar, Ms Shennae Searle, is currently completing her PhD, with her doctorate specifically focusing on how to engage girls in STEM.
Ms Searle noticed that really bright, brilliant girls were performing well in humanities and literacy, but it did not seem to transfer across to STEM. This observation has inspired her PhD studies.
Ms Searle discovered that acceleration of student learning aligns closely with the skills espoused within science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) because they are open-ended, inquiry-based subjects that require the skills of problem-solving and critical thinking.
Shifting her focus to the acceleration of student learning through STEM, Ms Searle quickly noticed the disparity between how boys and girls approached the subject matter, identifying that girls were not engaging as readily as boys.
“There are perceptions that STEM can be a male-dominated industry, yet inroads have been made, especially in the last five years, to propel our young women into the industry with confidence and a true sense of equity. This has been accomplished through greater exposure to, and rethinking of, school curriculum that aligns learning experiences with skills and professions that were once dominated by males.”
Ms Searle’s role at Peninsula Grammar includes writing curriculum that weaves STEM into everyday lessons for Prep through to Year 8, while teaching classes across Year 5 through to Year 10. Enhancing student engagement is a core priority for her in all she does.
In robotics classes, for example, students have opted to build butterflies and unicorns instead of more traditional models, which has helped engage even the most reluctant of pupils. In a bionic hand unit, experts from Interplast and Doctors Without Borders visited and students communicated with 3D printing volunteers from the e-NABLE Community about developing a working prosthetic for a child in need.
Peninsula Grammar has two dedicated ‘MakerSpaces’ fitted out with iPads, robotics tools, 3D printers, virtual reality headsets and more, where students of all ages undertake STEM projects.