Responding to her vision for a diversified curriculum, our Head of Prep School, Mrs Wood, and I worked together to create a new subject for the Key Stage 2 timetable which encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, but moves away from the title STEM. Our objective was to deliver the early foundations of skills and knowledge that will meet the needs of the workplace and our pupils’ futures, whatever their pathway might be.
Engineering has proved very successful and popular with pupils, staff and parents alike. We often follow class topics but also solve problems, both real and hypothetical; recently, for example, we learnt about how geologists will collect and use data from the Mars Rover Perseverance. We build in opportunities to learn teamwork, responding to pressure, thinking abstractly, perseverance, learning through tinkering and critical reflection.
Pupils work on large whiteboards and may use apps to support and model their ideas. They work collaboratively and soon learn to draw whilst they talk and describe their ideas. A big or small ‘build’ always occupies the main part of the sessions.
In line with our school ethos and the children’s priorities, we are environmentally conscious. When we built a sound sculpture and hedgehog houses, for example, we deliberately restricted ourselves to recycled materials. We also deconstruct most of our prototypes and reuse the materials.
Both the possibilities and the enthusiasm of the pupils are endless. We are now working in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the STEM Ambassador Programme. We also plan to join forces with researchers in Cambridge investigating girls’ perceptions of barriers in computing and to join the Youth STEM Award Scheme.
Through extracurricular activities we are able to come together in small groups to enter competitions such as the Fly to the Line glider contest at RAF Hendon and the Race to the Line rocket car event. Staying closer to home, our Reception children have built model fire engines and our girls and boys have made their own fairy light decorations.
At St Jo’s, our pupils move seamlessly from KS2 to KS3. They have started to realise the potential of following the STEM pathways available to them here right up to Sixth Form level.
Mrs Elska Hughes
Engineering Teacher at St Joseph’s College