The STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) program has established Academies of STEM Excellence in nine regional locations around NSW.
Academies of STEM Excellence are learning communities usually consisting of a hub secondary school working collaboratively with their partner primary schools and other local department schools. They aim to improve STEM knowledge within the community, engage teachers in future-focused learning and teaching, and inspire students to develop a passion for STEM.
Link to or join these and other networks from the NSW Department of Education.
Academies of STEM Excellence
Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence
The Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence (CASE) is an initiative of the Cessnock High School Learning Community (CHSLC) and the NSW Department of Education. This learning community has resulted from a collaboration between Cessnock High School and five local partner primary schools of Abermain, Cessnock, Cessnock East, Kearsley and Kitchener.
The main purpose of the CASE is to improve the expert knowledge of STEM for the teachers of the CHSLC, to engage them in future-focused learning and teaching practices, and to inspire passion for STEM in their students.
CASE has become such a success that the NSW Minister for Education identified it as “being at the forefront of innovative education”. CASE become a pilot program for the STEM Industry Schools Partnership (SISP) program.
Central Coast Academy of STEM Excellence
The Central Coast Academy of STEM Excellence (CCASE) is based in the Metropolitan North Region, operating predominantly within the Brisbane Water Principal Network, however, has now branched out into five other Principal Networks across the Central Coast and beyond, supporting over 40 schools, 800 teachers and 16, 000 students.
Established in 2020, our mission is to “create pathways that inspire our community to embrace STEM learning, while building knowledge and skills that ensure citizens of the Central Coast contribute to shaping the future.”
CCASE engages a network of teachers from a vast area of geographical location in professional learning opportunities to build their confidence, accessibility to resources and improve professional practice in quality STEM pedagogy and process. The model is designed to increase teacher professional practice of STEM outcomes in the classroom while cultivating student engagement, participation, ability, and aspiration in STEM while establishing links between STEM industries and schools. This cohesive network of educators is now inspiring and leading each other in STEM pedagogical practice through exemplar programming and implementation, resource sharing and professional discourse specific to STEM pedagogy and integrated learning.
Each school is at varying stages of implementation therefore their key objectives vary. Nikyetta Pencheff, STEM Project Officer differentiates the support to suit each context while providing a consistent, continuum of learning for educators and students using the STEM Process. In 2022, this resulted in Nikyetta receiving a NSW Minister’s Award from the Honourable Sarah Mitchell MLC, for Teaching Excellence recognising the delivery of the highest quality education to students participating within the Academy and contributions to her professional community.
Aspirations are to continue developing new partnerships, while sustaining current industry relations in three key school-industry areas which are Food, Health, and Agriculture. An abundance of opportunities has been acted on through the development of curriculum materials and resources, in consultation with a variety of key stakeholders.
Curriculum materials created and/or delivered in collaboration with industry include; Ampcontrol, involving innovative engineers creating an improvised ventilation system to support NSW Health during COVID; The University of Newcastle, Central Coast Industry Connect and Life Health Foods producing innovative food units that investigate Australian food trends and consumer demand for these products; Rumbalara Environmental Education Centre and Central Coast Council to build “Fire-ED Up”, a Bushfire Resilience Program designed to support students in minimising anxiety, build their understanding of bushfire safety and resilience through stressful events such as a bushfire, which is relevant to the local environmental context of the Central Coast.; Rumbalara Environmental Education Centre and Environmental Protection Agency to develop and deliver “Waste Reduction Action Plan” to reduce waste from schools that contributes to landfill and climate change; NBN Co., creating digital inclusion and educating the most vulnerable demographics in our community from security breaches; The Orbispace Initiative and The Academy of Enterprising girls, empowering the next generation of Australian female innovators by inspiring and equipping them with the skills and mindsets needed to succeed.
Crookwell Academy of STEM Excellence
The Crookwell Academy of STEM Excellence (CASE) is based at Crookwell High School (CHS) in the Upper Lachlan shire within the Southern Inland region. CASE includes approximately 20 schools in a hub and spoke model. CHS is the hub school and its partner primary schools are the spokes. Schools in the Southern Inland within the Uplands Learning Community, Goulburn-Mulwaree Learning Community, Southern Highlands Learning Community and Hilltops Learning Community also participate in the program. The focus areas for CASE are Renewable Energy, Waste Management and AgriTech.
With a population of over 200,000 people, the Southern Inland is uniquely located between the two biggest population centres and domestic economies in Australia – Sydney and Melbourne. The region joins some of Australia’s oldest inland settlements, such as Bowral and Goulburn, to places surrounding the ACT which have some of the highest rates of population growth in inland Australia – places thriving on digital connectivity and a highly skilled workforce. The region is on a growth path, with recent years seeing major investments in agriculture, waste management, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing. The region has abundant renewable energy resources and is home to world-leading renewable energy research and development. CASE has formed strong industry links with Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm; Crookwell 2 Wind Farm; Taralga Wind Farm; Taralga Wind Farm, Cullerin Wind Farm; GoTerra; and the Woodlawn Bioreactor.
Building teacher STEM capacity is a major focus. CASE focuses on improving teachers’ confidence and ability to embed technology and the STEM design thinking process into their curriculum. Regular professional learning is provided to staff within the program coordinated by our STEM Project Officer. Through the delivery of interactive professional development, joint program planning with Industry participation, and providing equipment and resources, CASE is greatly improving the delivery of STEM learning within our region.
Coastal Academy of STEM Excellence
The Coastal Learning Community (CLC) Academy of STEM Excellence is situated on the Far North Coast of NSW, within close proximity to the QLD border. The Academy includes Kingscliff High School and five local primary schools.
Commencing in 2021, CLC ASE was established as a smaller version of the NSW Regional STEM Academies. The key aims of the Academy are to:
* establish a STEM community and partnerships
* increase STEM opportunities for all students in the CLC
* support schools to engage with STEM, industry and future focused learning
CLC ASE engages a team of STEM Teachers to participate in planning, team teaching and collaboration in STEM activities and differentiated teaching strategies. The aim is to build a network of mentors with increased confidence and skills to engage in STEM and future focused teaching and learning. The team is led by a part-time STEM Project Officer, who regularly visits schools to assist in professional development, team teaching and planning.
Commencing this year, the joint STEM Officers held a planning day focusing on building skills in STEM pedgogies and cross-curricular subject delivery. A key focus is the STEM design and problem-solving process aimed at strengthening skills in teamwork, collaborative learning and inquiry-based learning.
STEM learning opportunities have been provided within the CLC for the last few years via annual inter-school events. The annual Mousetrap Challenge evening is an example of a major event. This year student teams are learning to use the STEM design process to present their vehicles and STEM design folios to a panel of judges. Students also participate in a distance challenge and STEM trivia quiz to test skills learnt at school through the challenge.
Opportunities are also provided for staff and students to engage in professional development and problem solving in digital technologies. An annual STEM Challenge Day is held, where students partake in activities in a variety of team challenges, including simple tower engineering challenges to Lego NXT Robotics Challenges.
The next goal of the Academy will be to establish further links with local universities, industry and businesses to increase student interest to pursue careers in STEM, and to link learning experiences with local industry. The region has traditionally provided employment in rural industries, retail, building and construction and tourism. There will also be growth in health and education with the construction of the new Tweed Hospital and growing population.
Hastings Academy of STEM Excellence
Hunter Academy of STEM Excellence
The Hunter Academy of STEM Excellence has recently formed in the Hunter region and includes Maitland Grossmann High School, Maitland Public School, and East Maitland Public School. The Academy has visions to expand further over the coming years.
The Hunter region is known for its large coal and gas mining industries as well as aluminium and steel manufacturing. The region is also experiencing rapid growth in tourism, retail, and viticulture. There are excellent employment opportunities in education and health with the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health both expanding.
The development of strong industry partnerships provides opportunities for excursions, guest speakers, work experience, and many other educational experiences for students associated with the Hunter Academy. These connections provide a unique opportunity to link learning to the local area while showcasing a range of career paths in STEM to students. As the Hunter Academy grows, existing and new partnerships will develop as part of the role of the STEM Project Officer.
Our partnership with Curiious has allowed Maitland Grossmann High to take part in a world-first social and emotional learning trial using virtual reality headsets. The company are invested in deploying this program to our local network and to developing learning programs for students to create their own virtual and interactive experiences.
The Hunter Academy focuses on improving teachers’ confidence and ability to embed technology and the STEM design thinking process into their curriculum. Through the delivery of interactive professional development, joint program planning, and team teaching the Hunter Academy is greatly improving the delivery of STEM learning across all subjects. One of our targets is to increase STEM engagement and opportunities of all students with a particular focus on First Nations and female students. The inclusion of the STEM design thinking pedagogy in all subject areas combined with the use of technology increases student engagement in learning, improving their skills and career opportunities.
Illawarra Academy of STEM Excellence
The Illawarra Academy of STEM excellence is based in the Illawarra region and currently includes three secondary schools, Corrimal, Lake Illawarra and Warrawong High School.
The Illawarra region covers an area of 1,124 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 280,000. The dominant industry in the region is steelmaking and its downstream businesses.
IASE’s major industry partner, BlueScope is one of the largest global producers of metal coated and painted steel building products, employing around 3,000 directly in the Illawarra and supports about 10,000 contractors, suppliers and other service providers.
BlueScope accounts for more than $2 billion in sales and has a production capacity of approximately 2.6 million tonnes of steel per annum. BlueScope has strong ties with the local community and promote their cadetship and traineeship program within local schools.
Some opportunities and experiences that the Illawarra Academy of STEM Excellence promote and engage with are, Advanced Manufacturing and Industry 4.0, The Orbispace Initiative, Future of Female Leadership Forum, The Smith Family Young ICT Explorers (YICTE) challenge, BlueScope Cadetship forums, Inside Industry Bluescope tours, Illawarra Medical Health and Research Institute Community Lab visits, ANSTO challenge days, CSIRO Deadly in Generation STEM, University of Wollongong STEM Outreach programs and supporting teacher professional learning opportunities.
The Illawarra Academy of STEM excellence schools have embedded STEM into the curriculum in Stage 4 and Stage 5 classrooms to maximise the student exposure to STEM pedagogies underpinned by the design thinking process. Student engagement and teacher capacity in STEM has markedly increased since the commencement of the SISP partnership in July 2020.
Murrumbidgee Academy of STEM Excellence
The Murrumbidgee Academy of STEM Excellence (MASE) is based at Murrumbidgee Regional High School (MRHS) in the city of Griffith in the Riverina region. The MASE includes approximately 20 schools in a hub and spoke model. MRHS is the hub school and its partner primary schools are the spokes. Leeton High School and its partner primary schools also participate in the program. The focus areas for MASE are Agri-Tech, Advanced Manufacturing and the Virtual STEM Academy.
Home to 171,855 people, the Riverina Region supports 75,265 jobs and has an annual economic output of $26.586 billion. Griffith contributes $1.87 billion of this with its 12,616 jobs with 17.4% of these being in manufacturing.
Stretching 500kms from east to west across south-central NSW, the Riverina region covers an area of almost 80,000 square kilometres. The region is home to approximately 171,000 people (2019 ERP), many who rely on the region’s largest employer – agriculture and related businesses – for their livelihood.
Building teacher STEM capacity is a major focus for the MASE. A dedicated STEM Maker Space has been provided by Murrumbidgee Regional High School equipped with a wide range of STEM resources. Regular professional learning is provided to staff within the program coordinated by our STEM Project Officer. Partner Primary Schools are invited to hold their staff meetings in this space where the SISP program is outlined and items from the lending library are showcased. We also invite STEM classes to use the Maker Space for dedicated STEM lessons.
The MASE has strong links with a number of STEM providers including STELR, STILE, Maths On-Line, Pitsco, the Aldrin Foundation, Share Space, iSee, the Queensland Virtual STEM Academy and Grok.
Other projects being worked on in 2021 include the International Rover Challenge (iROC) with Pitsco and the Aldrin Foundation, the Australia New Zealand STEM Education Alliance (ANZSEA), CyberSecurity, the MASE F1 in Schools program, the MASE Aeronautical Velocity Challenge and the University of Newcastle Smart Science Shows and Science and Engineering Challenge.
A significant project being developed in 2020 - 2021 is the creation of the NSW Virtual STEM Academy being hosted at Murrumbidgee Regional High School. This initiative has been an ongoing collaboration between the Queensland Virtual STEM Academy, the SISP Program and the Murrumbidgee Academy of STEM Excellence. The first cohort of students will undertake lessons in STEM enrichment in semester two of 2021. The VSA will provide STEM enrichment for students from years 5 – 9 inspiring a passion and aspiration for STEM through innovative learning, enriching opportunities and transformational partnerships.
Rivers Academy of STEM Excellence
The Rivers Academy of STEM Excellence is on Bundjalung country in the Northern Rivers region of NSW and includes three high schools, seven primary schools and one school for specific purposes.
The Northern Rivers region is traditionally known for rural industries, tourism and alternative lifestyles. Currently the area is experiencing rapid growth in retail, building and construction, tourism and hospitality. Employment in the health, education and community services sectors is growing, including opportunities for highly-skilled professionals.
RASE has formed strong industry partnerships with local companies, which has seen them being involved in various projects in schools. These include small-scale solar industry sector with innovative renewable energy projects and a start-up microalgae company focusing on addressing climate change.
Each year, RASE holds an academy-wide challenge involving almost 500 students. Students use the STEM design thinking process to create their solutions. The Solar RASE and the Bottle Rocket Challenge are the culmination of units of work in both primary and high schools.
RASE has a strong focus on building teacher confidence and capacity to embed the STEM design thinking process into their practice through authentic projects. Through the delivery of professional development, joint planning and co-teaching opportunities, along with the inclusion of STEM design thinking pedagogy in school plans across the academy, RASE is having a positive impact on improving the STEM capability and aspiration of students.
The academy is the recipient of a Schools Plus grant aimed at supporting teachers to embed the STEM design thinking process across the curriculum, and aiding transition to high school. The success of RASE has also been recognised through a Secretary’s Commendation for School Achievement and a Secretary’s Award for Outstanding School Initiative.
Feature of Academies of STEM Excellence
Typically, Academies of STEM Excellence has the following features:
STEM Project Officers
Each Academy has a full or part-time STEM Project Officer who coordinates the local implementation of SISP program initiatives and to support surrounding schools.
A number of academies have established advisory groups which provide advice on the local implementation of the program and help prepare a local academy strategic plan.
Local industry partnerships
Academies of STEM Excellence through their STEM Project Officer coordinate local STEM industry projects and events. These partnerships assist schools with academy activities, including excursions, incursions, mentoring, curriculum resource development, events and competitions.
Academies of STEM Excellence implement STEM curricula within their local school communities. The implementation of integrated STEM programs, whilst not compulsory, is highly recommended. Support for the development of cross-curriculum STEM programs in all Key Learning Areas is also a feature of the program.
STEM community of practice
Each academy is a centre of STEM engagement, enrichment, outreach, and professional learning within their local area. Most Academies of STEM Excellence will work with their local learning communities using a hub and spoke model of delivery with the secondary school at the centre and the partner primary schools making up the spokes.