From coding and conducting experiments to designing robots and decomposing problems – studying STEM at ACG Tauranga entails much more than your stereotypical maths and science classes.
The school’s turbocharged STEM programme revolutionises science, technology, engineering and mathematics, giving students a leading-edge and building skills that set them up to solve today’s global challenges.
According to physics and science teacher Brent Smith, immersing students in STEM has never been more important – and ACG Tauranga is leading the charge.
“STEM has at its core the ideals of problem solving and teamwork,” says Brent. “If there was ever a time in human history where we needed to work together to solve problems, isn’t it now? This is exactly what society needs – people who can think outside the box and solve issues in a timely fashion with multiple different options, dependent on parameters.”
ACG Tauranga lays the foundations for STEM in their Primary School, engaging students with a block of science every week from Year 1 and specialist science teachers in Years 5 and 6.
Then, from Years 7 to 10, students up the ante, with seven science lessons each week (including double blocks to enable practical activities), weekly computer science lessons, lunchtime and afterschool mathematics workshops, robotics, EPro8 competitions, and more specialist science lessons.
“We try to integrate STEM into all our units of work. We don’t just pay lip service to it by building a rocket at the end of the year – there are aspects of STEM in lots of our practicals and experiments.”
And in contrast to the more traditional science and mathematics of old, the curriculum is a huge success with the students.
“Hands-on activities and problem-solving is a real drawcard for the kids. They love to get involved, especially if they can take home whatever they’ve made! They also relish the independence and the opportunity to work at their own pace. Students are given license to go off on their own and solve an issue and only really need us to help bring their plan together.”
For Brent, being part of such an outstanding STEM programme is both exciting and rewarding.
“Nothing beats seeing the faces of the kids when they solve a problem or create a model which actually works as it’s supposed to. I love the idea that there is no correct answer or one way that things have to be done. The teacher is not the holder of all knowledge, the students teach us as much as they learn, and every day is different.”
Rob Webster introduces Years 7 to 10 students to computer science at ACG Tauranga. They learn to decompose problems into step-by-step instructions to create computer programme algorithms. Plus, they use logical thinking to predict the behaviour of programmes and understand that there can be more than one algorithm for the same problem.
“Coding is a basic literacy in the digital age, and it is important for kids to understand and be able to work with the technology around them,” says Rob. “It encourages problem-solving and informs students that there is more than one solution. It also enhances creativity and ensures students can make mistakes and know how to correct them.”
In his three years at the school, Rob has become a highly valued member of the STEM team. He runs the Robotics Club (where students help build and code VEXIQ robots and get to participate in the VEXIQ Challenge) and coordinates the EPro8 competition, which sees schools compete against each other to solve engineering challenges.
With such inspiring teachers and exciting opportunities on offer, it’s little wonder that the popularity of STEM is skyrocketing at ACG Tauranga.