In March/April this year, 60 girls, aged 11 – 13, from Melbourne Girls Grammar departed for the United States on what was the School’s inaugural Middle Years Science and Enterprise Tour. The two week tour included a visit to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Head Office in Seattle, the Chabot Space Station, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Stanford University, Google Headquarters in Mountain View, and the student conference: “Young Women for Enterprise and Innovation”.
The keynote speaker, Pamela Fox, was a graduate from the USC Computer Science Department and worked for some years at Sydney’s Google Headquarters, working on Google Maps and Google Wave. She has now returned to San Francisco and to a role at Khan Academy where she is writing their online computing curriculum. After the keynote the students participated in a range of workshops that included “Algorithms” with Pamela Fox and “Leadership & Personal Branding” by local executive management coach, Denise Rabius.
After the Consul General, Amy Hyatt, heard about the trip she also offered assistance and sent along a representative of the U.S. Consulate to the student planning day as, in her words, “We’ve a keen interest in STEM and innovation, and particularly as it relates to Australian youth.”
Back at school, technology is embedded throughout the curriculum, and students have the opportunity to extend their skills via subjects such as Digital Media & Design and Algorithmics & Informatics Networks. Melbourne Girls Grammar are now known for their innovation, particularly around technology and its integration into everything the school does. The school recognise that there must be a focus on preparing their students for life in an increasingly open and globally connected world.
Melbourne Girls Grammar have always been proactive and innovative around technology. After a 20 year history of providing students with 1:1 notebooks, the school moved to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in 2014. The move to a BYOD environment supports the educational philosophy of higher expectations around self-management, offering choice and flexibility to suit an individual’s personalised learning pathways and ensuring the girls are prepared for the university and workplace environments. The school offers a flexible but scaffolded approach to STEM integration where students in the Early Learning Centre have the opportunity to learn coding via Bee-Bots and Scratch Jr. The girls build their own interactive stories and games and in the process, they are problem solving, using creative expression, and designing as well as learning new computer skills.
In addition to the Middle Years Science and Enterprise Tour and its Young Women for Enterprise & Innovation Conference, the school continues to engage the Junior and Middle Years girls via Techie Club, Coding Club and school holiday programs and camps that are focused on Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM). Each and every Techie Club is oversubscribed. The girls love hearing from real Techie Girls studying a range of STEM subjects including all the Engineering specialities and Robotics. Last year, Year 2 students spent two weeks programming Lego Mindstorms and in Years 4 to 6 they also had the opportunity to build the robots from scratch before programming them.
“We are so fortunate at Melbourne Girls Grammar to have the opportunity to engage girls with STEM at such a young age. Starting at the higher levels is far more difficult but if they are led to believe that playing with technology, engineering, coding and robotics is completely normal for girls, they grow up, not just believing but actually knowing that they can do anything,” says the Director of eLearning, Mary-Lou O’Brien.
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