Introducing 21st Century skills in the primary years

01 December 2019

Unity College is set for dramatic growth with the introduction of STEM, an innovative 
and engaging integration of science, technology, engineering and math.

With skills such as computational thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity imperative in today’s world, Unity College students now have access to the newest educational technologies available with the recent purchase of Virtual Reality kits, Blue Bot robots, LEGO® WeDo 2.0 kits, Dash robots and EV3 LEGO® robotics, as well as an augmented reality topographic sand box. Students also learn how to code, design and create digital solutions, as well as program robotics across various applications learning to apply a variety of sophisticated algorithms as their skills develop.

Prep to Year 3 students have in-class access to one to one Apple iPads which they use to create a range of digital solutions through guided play and scaffolded learning opportunities. From Year 4 onwards, students have individual iPads and are able to take their iPads home for further educational purposes and digital citizenship development. Students learn how to apply a multitude of skills as they incorporate digital technologies into everyday learning through engaging activities, such as navigating maps using robotics, digitally recording scientific experiments and analysing results through mathematical graphing software applications. Students are also taught correct typing techniques on one to one full sized keyboards, ensuring the optimum development of this lifetime skill.

Students in the early Junior Years now enjoy engaging lessons using the new LEGO® kits. Over the course of their lessons, they use bricks, gears and axels to build moving models of monkeys that swing and funny owls with moving eyes. These learning opportunities encourage collaboration with peers, effective communication strategies, as well as working on fine motor skills and creativity.

These cohorts also use Blue Bots, an exciting programmable floor robot. Its child-friendly design, funny sounds and colourful lights makes it the perfect starting device for young coders. Teaching control, directional language, programming and algorithms, it is not only a wonderful device for Digital Technologies, but further promotes literacy, numeracy and other cross-curricular connections too.

Building on these skills learnt in the early years, Junior students then develop their engineering skills and robotic coding with Dash Robots. Students use their knowledge of push and pull to create a LEGO® attachment for their Dash robot to navigate marbles around a course. Learners build on their coding language skills with the use of Tynker and Blockly coding apps.

STEM integrations continue in Year 3, when students explore the moon and the mystery of outer space and discuss what they would need to incorporate to create their very own moon rover. Students work in collaborative teams to design, build and test their lunar creation. Using knowledge of the moon’s surface and environment, students consider what their robots might require for a successful mission and then build their moon rover using the LEGO® WeDo 2.0 kits. Learners apply their coding skills to drive their moon rovers over a lunar surface to the base. The use of the robot allows students to make links between mathematical concepts and the real world.

Coding activities also allow students to develop computational thinking skills while exploring content in other learning areas. In Year 4 HASS, students learn about the First Fleet. Integrating Digital Technologies, the coding app Tynker is used to map the voyage taken by these first ships. Students then create their own quiz, based on the knowledge of key dates and facts.

Students also use the LEGO® WeDo 2.0 kits to create a robot to investigate the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the movement of an object. Pupils build their robots and measure the outcomes using different wheels and weights. They engage in discussions about the investigation, explain the concepts of forces and friction and use this information to create a final project. The Numbers app is then used to enter the data and create graphs to adequately provide evidence to justify their findings.

Digital technologies are integrated throughout the College, seamlessly transitioning students from Prep to Year 12, with the introduction of one to one Apple laptops in Year 7. All devices from Prep to Year 12 have access to the school’s WiFi system, ensuring online safety through safeguarded internet controls, personalised BCE email accounts as well as protected online storage and digital educational resources.  

Dedicated to providing students with the highest level of learning opportunities available on the Sunshine Coast, Unity College’s exciting STEM program aims to ensure that all students can learn these critical 21st century skills and grow with STEM at the College.

By Natalie Benson, 
Junior Technologies, Unity College

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