Festival of Big Ideas

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An inspiring, fun-filled festival has given students at St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove and Our Lady of Fatima Primary School a taste of skills that are in growing demand in our rapidly changing world.

The Festival of Big Ideas (17-21 June) was an opportunity for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 at the neighbouring schools to test their strengths in the interdisciplinary learning approach known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Andrew Di Lizio, STEM Co-ordinator for both schools said: “We believe it’s vital for our students to not only be conscious of the big issues facing our world but to also to be empowered with the skills to solve them.

“The Festival of Big Ideas exposed our students to some of the skills that will be required to solve the problems of the future in an exciting, engaging way.”

Students joined in a range of events throughout the week, applying their creativity, critical thinking, digital and problem-solving skills to an array of challenges.

Highlights included a solar car challenge, a school-wide paper plane contest, micro:bit and virtual reality workshops, an artificial intelligence competition and a marshmallow spaghetti tower build-off. Students from Years 5 and 7 pitched their micro-farm concepts, with the winning design to guide the development of an outdoor learning garden which will drive authentic STEM learning opportunities in the future.

Students also had the chance to learn from industry experts, with guests from Atlassian sharing their experience in STEM and education specialists from Microsoft facilitating coding workshops. Students also attended events by Fizzics Education, STEM Punks and Kaleidoscope Science.

Along with practising new skills, Andrew said the Festival was a chance for students to build their resilience; a critical attribute for people studying and working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, where many mistakes can be made on the journey to reach a discovery, and solutions to problems are rarely black and white.

“We are encouraging our students to take risks in their learning and to fail forward, which means understanding achievement as a series of trial and error opportunities,” Andrew said.

“We are just at the beginning of our STEM journey and excited about incorporating these experiences into all areas of learning. My hope is that we can develop our students critical STEM skills throughout their education to ensure they are as prepared as possible for challenges they face in future study, work and life.”

STEM is a way of thinking, rather than a standalone subject. Recognising the importance of including STEM learning activities across the curriculum, in March this year St Ursula’s and Our Lady of Fatima schools appointed Andrew as joint STEM Co-ordinator.

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