On the Victorian side of the border with New South Wales, Wodonga Senior Secondary College is home to 900 Year 10-12 students, 100 staff and a community hub sharing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) expertise.
“We’re a larger school, we have a large number of expert teachers – not many schools in regional areas have that kind of capacity,” Michael Rosenbrock, Assistant Principal at the college and Director of the Regional STEM Centre, explains. “We identified that we were doing a lot of good STEM work already and we were in a good place to share our work and help meet the different needs of teachers and students in regional areas.”
The former aerospace and automotive engineer tells Teacher that includes professional development opportunities. “There are a lot of things around (in education) about STEM, but it’s different in a regional setting. Students have different needs, different backgrounds, and it’s a lot harder for staff and students to access things than in the city. Our teachers and students in regional areas are limited in what they can access. They can’t simply go to the university after school or just drop into a PD.”
The centre was officially created in 2016 (although Rosenbrock points out the work had already been going on for several years) and is an initiative of the college and the Wodonga Federation of Government Schools, in partnership with Quantum Victoria. It occupies several sites within the secondary college.
The Regional STEM Centre organises and hosts regular professional learning events, workshops and an annual conference, providing PD for a large chunk of teachers from the area, while student initiatives include the Little Professors program where senior students work with their primary counterparts to engage them in STEM.
Rosenbrock says the key to providing these rich teaching and learning opportunities has been linking with external organisations, such as forming strong partnerships with the two local universities – La Trobe University in Wodonga and Charles Sturt University across the river in Thurgoona. He says the annual conference has been a cornerstone of the regional facility and its PD programs as it brings together a large number of teachers from a wide area, building the foundation for plenty of collaboration and the creation of networks within schools, providing a ‘canvas’ for educators who are keen to share in their areas of passion.
One of the college’s most recent projects is an outdoor STEM classroom where the emphasis is on practical learning – students can do research, capture data and make use of technology – focused on engaging disadvantaged students in STEM and funded as part of the Victorian Government Education State equity funding initiative.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.