Driving STEM, Seeing Success

In 2001 Judith A. Ramaley, the former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and human-resources division, developed curriculum that would enhance education in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. This became known as STEM. In order for today’s children to see the advancements in their generations that have been seen in ours, it is important they have a well-balanced education that includes STEM elements as well as traditional classes in the Arts. STEM education is designed to teach the "whole" student and in turn will make them successful members of society.

At Queen Margaret College we are teaching STEM within the curriculum, but also beyond the classroom through our Learning Extension Acceleration Programme (LEAP). This programme offers a myriad of discussion groups, workshops, clubs, outside competitions and international exams.

A key focus of LEAP is affording students the chance to represent the College at competitions regionally and nationally with the support of teachers.

Kathleen McDonnell, Deputy Principal, mentions, "The success achieved by the girls at these competitions is always a bonus on top of the learning acquired in the lead-up preparation. And I must say we have seen some outstanding results this year!"

At the recent MathsWell Competition the QMC Year 11 team received second place out of 18 schools and the Year 10 team were the number one girls’ team in their category. A large number of prizes were received at this year’s NWIA Science Fair, adding to the success of last year. (These are highlighted in the article: Conquering the Science Fair Again.)

At this year’s BP Challenge, a technology/engineering problem solving event held in Wellington, there were over 250 participants from over 20 schools. The College had two Junior School teams participate under the guidance of teacher, Jane Heather-Sclater. The Year 5/6 team received third overall and the Year 3/4 team did not place but walked away with some commendable comments from the judges.

Following this, four College teams were entered in the Tournament of Minds Regional Final in Lower Hutt. Similar to the BP Challenge, students are required to solve demanding, open-ended challenges from one of four disciplines: Applied Technology, Language Literature, Maths Engineering or Social Sciences. One of the Middle School teams received first overall in Applied Technology, while one Junior team was overall winner of the Social Science and the other third overall in the Language and Literature.

Another aspect of LEAP is ICAS (International Competitions and Assessments), which are Computer Skills, Mathematics, Science, Spelling, Writing, and English exams. These exams are sat by over one million students from over 6,300 schools in Australia and New Zealand annually. Excluding the English results which are yet to be advised, so far in 2013 Queen Margaret College students have received ten High Distinction, which puts the girls in the top 1% and over 60 Distinctions, placing them in the top 10%.

The programme also looks to bring in experts in their fields to open students’ minds. Dr Deborah Stevens of Victoria University recently ran a number of seminars on Bioethics in the Middle School. During the seminar they explored issues such as animal testing, business ethics and globalisation and the changing face of family. In the past the College has also brought in writers to run workshops.

Other features of LEAP is the Junior School Art Club who meet weekly after-school with a specialist art teacher, a weekly Robotics Club run by the HOD of e-Learning and Philosophy lessons for Year 9s. There is also a Chess Club and an eager Middle School Writers’ Group, who swing the library doors open at the crack of dawn with laptops in hand to work with Deputy Principal, Kathleen McDonnell.

"One of the best moments of writers club was when the Library was over crowded with spectators of the America’s Cup Race and the girls were so engrossed in their writing they hardly noticed," Kathleen laughs.

Jane Heather-Sclater works with an equally keen group of writers from the Junior School each Friday morning.

The LEAP Programme continues to grow, Kathleen explains, "We are always looking for ways to extend students and offer opportunities outside the classroom walls. The recent visit to hear creative writers from the Masters Programme at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria is a case in point. We were the only school group to attend and the girls were part of a captivated audience."