Full STEAM ahead at Gippsland Tech School

It may thrive on a 'hands on' approach, but the latest move to remote and flexible learning hasn't stopped Gippsland Tech School from getting its creative message through.

Students from 10 Latrobe Valley secondary schools usually participate in 'real world' learning at the Morwell site as part of their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) studies.

While coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions mean students can't visit Gippsland Tech School to work with new technologies, design projects such as using rapid prototyping equipment or developing a renewable energy-powered city are coming to them – via the Tech School's own YouTube channel.

School director Paul Boys and his team of three full-time teachers have developed a series of professional and creative 'STEAM in Isolation' videos, which have struck a chord with students.

'The videos were a response to the transition to remote learning – keeping the students engaged in fun, interactive, hands-on activities,' Paul said.

'It's all about picking up, adapting and using new technologies and engaging students when not in the classroom.'

Videos boost creative learning at home

There are already 26 videos which include fun topics such as using mathematics to score an extra piece of chocolate, growing your own hydroponic veggies and creating baking soda rockets.

Paul praised the influence of lead curriculum teacher Dan Farrant, who led the delivery of the videos and trained others in editing software, including Jess Cook, who specialises in the health, anatomy and sports science fields at the Tech School.

Dan said he created the videos 'because I knew people were stuck at home and often it can be hard to find STEAM activities that are simple to do and don't require a lot of materials'.

'I also felt like the Tech School had a responsibility to, and could make a difference for, our local community while in lockdown,' Dan said.

'I strongly believe that STEAM skills and thinking are really important and the earlier we can start with young people the better. That's why I chose to focus the videos on a younger audience, so we could support them to get excited about STEAM.'

Paul said the Tech School was looking at how it could get more students involved.

'We're developing a range of remote design challenges based around the video clips. So, if they're enjoying our paper plane video, for instance, we encourage them to respond to our challenge on that,' he said.

Thinking outside the square

Gippsland Tech School is also reaching out to its student base in other ways during the remote and flexible learning period.

'We're still running a wide variety of programs, like an electronics kit design challenge, providing responses to a project activity, and holding remote classes based on programs we'd normally run face to face,' he said.

Paul is delighted with the attitude of his teaching team of Dan, Jess and Dr Warren Stannard, who has a PHD in physics.

'It's been a learning curve and a challenge for all of us, but they appreciate they have a job to do, and their attitude has been outstanding,' he said.

'I think we've found a way to keep the momentum going and keeping kids engaged.

 'The important thing is to not throw this away and go back to what we've always done – keep some aspects of this (remote learning) as part of the normal.'

Victoria's 10 new Tech Schools aim to inspire students' interest in STEAM and build 21st century skills through exciting high-tech programs. To support student engagement during remote learning, a range of cross-curricular Tech School programs have been adapted and released on FUSE for Victorian schools to use independently. Visit the Learning by design webpage on the FUSE website.