Leura Public School is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Upper Blue Mountains on the land of the Dharug and Gundungurra people. Home to the scenic Yanema Budjery Gumada bushwalk, the school is also now home to a thriving technology hub for its K–6 students.
Hannah Bucholtz believes today’s learners can develop 21st century skills from a young age, and her Stage 3 students in Class Brave are proving her right. In her extracurricular STEM Hub makerspace, students work on self-directed projects like hydraulic robotic arms and self-watering recycled gardens in preparation for the world of tomorrow.
Before coming to teaching, a vocation she has now followed for nearly 10 years, her former careers included emerging technologies, communications, inclusion and disability support. These gave her a lasting interest in STEM and the skills to package complex topics in an approachable method for her students.
“For this to be successful, it’s about meeting each student at their point of need and taking them on a journey of discovery and inquiry. This year, I have worked with students on artificial intelligence, podcasting, prototyping and the entrepreneurial process. As the world evolves, so does my teaching”, said Hannah.
She’s a big believer in making connections. This year, her school participated in the University of Sydney’s STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy to produce a “design integrated STEM curriculum” in partnership with the university, which kick-started the school’s ambitious work in STEM.
She also coaches teams to compete in national and state STEM challenges, with a team winning the 2022 Mott MacDonald Incubation Prize as part of the NSW Department of Education’s Game Changer Challenge.
However, she still sensed there was a missed opportunity for her school’s science-loving students to connect closer to home. So earlier this year, after winning a National Science Week grant, she ran the first ever Blue Mountains STEM Fest. A hundred students from 10 regional primary schools attended the full-day event, where students learned from industry professionals and STEM teachers.
She hopes the event – which focused on emergent technologies in its first year like artificial intelligence, renewable energies and data science – can become a permanent fixture in the Blue Mountains, bringing students, teachers and industry together.
Leura Public School’s extensive STEM activities also include promoting girls in STEM as well as the Science Ignite Program, which introduces younger students to project-based learning, design-thinking and experimental play. Hannah feels they’ve only just begun, saying “there is a sense that we have only just scratched the surface in terms of what STEM can offer students. I’m excited to see where the future takes us”.
It’s a moment of pride when she sees her own passions ignite in her students. When asked about the moments she treasures, it’s a long list. Hannah’s examples include when students notice the connection between bridge designs and triangular formations, when they draw up a design blueprint and share a dream to be an engineer, and when they bring their science pitch to life with persuasive language.
The most telling moment can be bittersweet. When students depart for high school, Hannah can be certain many of them take their fascination with STEM wherever they go next: in the Year 6 Yearbook, many former students’ parting messages say STEM is their favourite.
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https://www.nsw.gov.au/education-and-training/nesa/news/all/stem-sprouts-upper-blue-mountains STEM sprouts in the Upper Blue Mountains