STEM teacher program bridges the gap

John Mignone, Department of State Development Mineral Resources Division Education and Community Information Services Manager, with five trainee science teachers from Flinders, left to right, Michael Bocse, Emily Halls, Kimberley Jackson, Hannah Wertheim and Emily Hawkins at the Drill Core Library at Tonsley.

A second round of 20 student teacher placements is planned this year under the State Government’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ program.

The program aims to ‘connect science education with the real world’ by giving student teachers contact with industry via visits and site experiences which, in turn, help them instruct high school students on the applications for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

Dr Carol Aldous, STEM industry engagement and co-ordinator science programs, is leading the Bridging the Gap program at Flinders.

“We want this experience to improve the ability of student teachers and industry to inspire high school students and reinforce the value of learning and understanding science and STEM,” says Dr Aldous, from the School of Education.

“We want to be teaching science from a richer place and you have to see how it applies in society and in real-life problems and applications to see how science, mathematics and technology are interwoven.”

Both Flinders and the University of SA have been partnering with the State Government and various companies to bring higher education, schools, businesses and government closer to reinforce the value of STEM skills and education.

State Higher Education and Skills Minister Dr Susan Close says the program will help connect future teachers with industry, bringing real-life examples into high school classrooms, building students’ skills and encouraging them to attain STEM skills.

“These skills will become increasingly important in developing South Australia’s STEM skills-based economy, in a wide range of careers, ranging from finance, information technology, a number of trade occupations as well as in the traditional science and engineering fields,” Minister Close says.

“This will ultimately lead to a better connection between education approaches and the skills needed in industry, particularly among businesses driven by innovation and creativity, which underpin many high-value careers.

“We want to ensure the continuing success and advancement of our students through STEM and the State Government has invested $250 million in STEM infrastructure in order for it to remain a priority.”

The pilot program is anticipated to be incorporated into the teaching practices at Flinders University as part of the education degree. It also involves putting the prospective sciences teachers in touch with key research leaders at Flinders to help solve or develop creative and innovative outcomes from the industry placements.

Flinders students last year made short visits and forged valuable practical knowledge of operations at local companies including SA Power Networks, Beach Energy, APA Group, Arrium Mining and SAGE Automation.

Geoff Johnson, Arrium’s Manager of Exploration, joined Dr Close and university representatives for a tour of the Core Drill Library at Tonsley to celebrate the program.

He says students gave him the opportunity to “present science in a real-life context for students who were very receptive to the approach”.

“The students were then able to deliver a passionate and engaged presentation about their experience, which I’m sure will motivate high school students regarding STEM learning,” Mr Johnson says.

Flinders student teacher, Hannah Wertheim, says her placement at Arrium included work on a problem related to improving the accuracy of drill sites in exploration mining.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to understand how science is used in a variety of ways at Arrium Mining,” Hannah says.

For more information about the Bridging the Gap program visit https://www.bridgingthegap.edu.au/

 

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