Sydney Catholic Schools Join Together for STEM Project with Makers Empire

Lisa Wahab is the Principal at Mary Immaculate Primary School in NSW, and the lead principal for the 2021 Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project. This project involves Catholic schools in Sydney taking part in Makers Empire’s 20-hour Learning by Design course together. We recently spoke with Lisa to learn why she was so keen to help make this pioneering project happen for this group of Sydney Catholic schools.

About Lisa Wahab

Lisa has been a passionate educator for 29 years in the Catholic education system, working across all grades, in different literacy roles, and in different leadership positions.

“To bring about real change for the students in my care I am intentional with planning opportunities to work with all staff, ensuring direction, reflection and feedback,” Lisa says.

“My vision for learning is one that inspires the community to want to be active learners (who) ask questions (whilst) being conscious of our calling to be witnesses to our faith… every day continues to bring me great joy as I work with students and staff making a difference to the lives of the young people in my schools.”

The Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project

The Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project  encourages learning across STEM disciplines by supporting teachers to engage students in exciting, challenging learning connected to solving real-world challenges using Design Thinking. The course is delivered to groups of schools to maximise learning and provide teachers with a peer network for support and inspiration.

Students participating in the Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project will:

  • Complete full days of professional development including 20+ hours of NESA accredited professional development at the Proficient Teacher level.
  • Address American, Australian and international Design & Technology curriculum and standards 

Teachers participating in the Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project will:

  • Develop pedagogical approaches that enable students to develop deep technological knowledge as well as critical, creative and Design Thinking skills.
  • Be supported to design innovative learning programs that provide authentic, meaningful contexts for students to engage in STEM and maker-based learning using 3D design and printing.
  • Activate the potential of 3D technologies to develop and enhance students’ 21st-century learning skills.

The five NSW schools involved in the Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project are: 

  1. Mary Immaculate Primary School;
  2. St Anthony of Padua Catholic College;
  3. St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Primary School at Lurnea;
  4. Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Primary School; and
  5. Marion Catholic Primary School at Horsley Park

What interested you in the Catholic STEM in Primary Schools 3D Printing Project?

“STEM related jobs are some of the fastest-growing jobs in Australia and around the world: a predicted 75 percent of all future jobs will require STEM literacy and skills… (so) we’ve put a lot of time and energy into building our teachers capacity for teaching STEM.

“Sometimes our STEM opportunities are student-led. We had some year 3/4 boys that came to use and wanted to be in a competition to help design the new South Western Sydney airport so we assigned them a mentor to work with them. They used Design Thinking to come up with ideas etc. 

“This STEM project was also student-led. Some students came to me and said that it would be better if they could create and pitch “real models” rather than cardboard models for their projects.”

How will this project benefit your students?

“When thinking about developing STEM skills, we’re talking about the individual skills needed to do science, mathematics, and engineering, and those needed to use technology effectively… essential STEM skills we want our students develop and/or enhance include problem-solving, creativity, inquiry skills, math & science Skills, engineering and Design Thinking skills, critical thinking and collaboration.”

How are the professional development days going?

“The first day of PD created a sense of excitement amongst STEM teachers – we were buzzing with possibilities! The opportunity to work with Mandi from Makers Empire enabled the teachers to develop a greater understanding around the Design Thinking process and the endless potential of the Makers Empire program… After the PD day, the teachers had some great ideas. They then did some curriculum mapping to make sure it tied in with other subjects, and was a more holistic approach.”

"I honestly can't thank you enough for this. You continue to go above and beyond to help us and I appreciate it so much. I actually sent my Principal a message today letting him know this is probably my most favourite PD session I've been to. It is so well organised, resourced and structured. Thank you so much, Mandi!"

What are the benefit of doing a inter-school project like this?

“Improved curriculum provision, pooled resources, knowledge sharing, development opportunities and sharing approaches to teaching and learning. This collaboration will also foster a sense of shared responsibility for a priority in fostering a passion for STEM learning. This will not only be evident in the professional development session and in informal cross-school discussions and problem-solving but also evident in the end of project showcase.”

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