‘Is it a challenge engaging girls with science and technology?’, we asked in the last issue. Say what? Students at Whangarei Intermediate were so surprised by this suggestion, they contacted us to say how popular STEM was with girls at their school, as they explain.
Fridays at Whangarei Intermediate School are enrichment days and, of the 60 students who participate in STEM enrichment classes, 45 of them are girls.
Given the popularity of these classes, when we read in the last INTERFACE Magazine that girls needed encouragement into STEM, we were surprised to say the least.
Firstly, you need to understand that WIS is a full digital immersion school. Every student has a Chromebook and there’s a Digital Technology specialist class (Coding and Robotics) that everyone in attends throughout the year. The STEM classes, however, are all about making, creating and experimenting, basically from scratch. We have made bottle rockets, mousetrap cars, Oobleck, marble runs, model tree houses and paddle boats, and have experimented with hydraulics, melting chocolate and burning potato chips, amongst other things.
“We build and experiment with stuff and learn new skills,” explained our classmate Cameron.
It can get quite messy at times, and yes, girls like making a mess – Oobleck is mainly responsible here – and ‘playing’ with fire (we have methylated spirits and Bunsen burners, and follow Lab Safety Rules). Luckily, we also have understanding cleaners!
We have learned physics while building rockets but, as Lily stated, “we experiment not just with science and technology but with our creativity as well.” And it is with this that STEM becomes STEAM.
Through STEAM, we have learnt to build relationships by working together, listening to each other’s ideas and collaborating with new people. We have learnt to experiment with new ideas and think outside the box. We are not afraid to get things wrong. We always are excited to come to STEAM with our teacher, Mr Kelly, because he lets us experiment for the first 15 minutes of STEAM, allowing us to build on our new ideas before we start the group project. He encourages us to try new things and helps us with our crazy imaginations and ideas.
“We are developing problem solving skills because when problems occur, we need to solve them to go ahead,” said Aleena.
Another reason STEAM is so enjoyable is “because you get to do different things that you normally wouldn’t do,” Shelby explained. This includes different tools, which, surprisingly, some of us have never used. We have learnt to use tools responsibly including craft knifes, Bunsen burners, hot glue guns, syringes for hydraulics, pressure pumps, and LEGO.
We believe that the WIS STEAM programme will help develop skills that will help us in our future studies and possibly guide us towards a previously unthought of career.
As Lauren pointed out, “we use real-world skills that could aid us in our future careers whilst having fun.”
Ruby commented: “You get to experiment and develop new strengths and it opens up a lot more opportunities I hadn’t thought of.”
We and our friends all agree that we get more involved in our learning.
“Because it is interesting and something that’s fun it helps us remember knowledge learned better,” added Maureen.
The last words should be left for Brooklyn, who started all of this by contacting INTERFACE.
“I am so passionate about STEAM because we have the freedom to do what we are curious about and experiment with new things and try out our theories on new things. With all the things we learn in STEAM we might become scientists!”
Article by Brooklyn, Ngaia, Eleanor, and Macey, who are students in the WIS STEAM Programme at Whangarei Intermediate School.
INTERFACE November 2021