Robot masterclass

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If you’re reading this article you may have noticed that primary schools have changed quite a bit since you were a student.

The whiteboards are being replaced with interactive screens, kids are doing their homework on iPads, and their portfolio can be sent straight to your phone.

Some schools are changing quicker than others, and one of those leading the way is McAuley Catholic Primary School. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Rose Bay, the schools inconspicuous exterior shelters the next generation of STEM geniuses.

Learning on the sort of high-tech gear that most of us couldn’t have fathomed when we were in primary school, students from K-6 are using coding to build themselves a foundation for future success.

Coding can be a head-scratcher. Both staff and students at McAuley Catholic Primary School can learn from the new coding classes

“We know that 75% of all new jobs will require STEM skills in the future,” says McAuley principal Nicole Jones. “Some manual jobs won’t exist anymore, current jobs will transform and there will be new jobs we don’t even know about yet.”

It’s this knowledge that has driven McAuley to become a Sydney Catholic Schools leader in STEM based learning.

“We’ve introduced coding classes, we have someone come in from an external company on Tuesday morning to work with the students using this equipment.”

“STEM lessons aren’t separate, it’s got to be integrated into the classroom.”

One of the ways Mrs. Jones has implemented the STEM focus has been by utilising new programs and robotics to create a foothold in coding.

“We took the kids to the local Apple store where we were able to take classes that were an introduction to coding,” she said. “Since then we’ve purchased Sphero balls and Bee Bots so that all the kids can continue to learn the basics.”

The Sphero is an app-enabled robot providing students opportunities to use coding to plan speed, acceleration, and direction. For the years K-1, the Bee Bot is a programmable floor robot which is a perfect starting point for teaching control, directional language and programming to young children.

“The kids love it so much they don’t even realise they’re learning.” McAuley fourth grader Adelaide Silk hard at work.

“The kids love it so much they don’t even realise they’re learning,” says Mrs Jones. “It gets said a lot but they really are like sponges, they just take in everything and they love.”

Mrs Jones was quick to highlight the efforts of Sydney Catholic Schools to increase STEM focus and learning across all schools.

“They’re amazing, they sent a team out to help and run a staff meeting for us,” said Nicole. “They work with teachers to work out how to integrate STEM into classroom learning.”

STEM is the way of the future, and the kids of McAuley Catholic Primary School and all Sydney Catholic Schools are being given the best chance for success.