The Country Education Partnership’s popular eKids program has partnered with the National Zoo to deliver the online Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based, problem-solving course throughout term 3 and 4.
The eKids program takes place online and gives students from rural and remote primary schools the chances to explore specialist subjects alongside like-minded students from all over the state.
This semester’s course requires students to consider the engineering requirements of animal enclosures drawing on examples from the National Zoo in Canberra. Using the iSee platform, a virtual classroom software, students take part in periods of research, design, planning, and peer feedback.
Students Bailey and Keira from Wurruk Primary School in East Gippsland have both really enjoyed learning about the animals.
‘We really like learning abouts zoos and about the enclosures, what animals are inside them’, Bailey said.
Jack and Felicity from Avoca Primary School have similar opinions.
‘We’ve both really enjoyed it’, Felicity said. ‘I’ve loved the parts where we’ve had to research, learn about all the animals and their habitats and how they live.’
Amy Glover from Wurruk Primary School has been supervising Bailey and Keira throughout the program.
‘They really enjoyed going in and seeing animals being fed in real time,’ She said, ‘I heard them saying That’s so cool every 10 seconds.’
‘It’s those opportunities that we don’t get as much being rural – actually going to the zoo to see things like this. So it was great for them to see that.’
Mr Elliot who has been supervising Jack and Felicity has noticed a high level of engagement from students.
‘Every time I walk past and watch them they’re always doing or saying something’, he said.
‘They’re not hanging back, they’re always involved and always really looking forward to it.’
Both supervising teachers have identified the value and potential of the iSee program.
‘I think it’s a great way of connecting students’, Mr Elliot said. ‘It was really valuable during remote learning because it was something different.’
A screenshot from the iSee platform as a student presents their idea on a board. Image: CEP
Wurruk Primary School is part of a cluster of schools in East Gippsland. Mrs Glover is excited by the possibility of an eKids equivalent being delivered locally.
‘I can see the potential for the platform iSee not only being used to connect students across Victoria but also on a more localised level,’ she said.
‘The distance between our two furthest cluster schools is 97km, hence why a platform like iSee could allow the students from the 7 schools to come together for targeted learning sessions.’
‘For some of our schools there may only be one student in any given year level, so for them to have the opportunity to learn with a fellow cluster student from the same year level has a multitude of benefits.’
For the students at Wurruk, a small school of 38 enrolments, this is an opportunity to experience a broader community of students.
‘That’s one of the biggest things in a small school, students don’t get as much opportunity to interact with new people and it can be challenging for them,’ Mrs Glover said.
‘Especially as senior school, they’re about to go to a school of 500 people and they’ve come from one of 38.’
The program has also given Jack from Avoca Primary School a chance to further excel his established interests in STEM activities.
Recently he was able to fix part of his school’s outdoor equipment by measuring, designing and 3D printing a unique plug to stop water leakage.
‘We’ve had a 3D printer for 12-18 months and have never used it’, Mr Elliot said. ‘Jack did the whole thing in the library, designed it, printed it without any teacher supervision.’
eKids has been an opportunity for Jack and the other students at Avoca to further explore the specialist learning subjects.
‘Anything STEM-related is a bonus for a school like us,’ Mr Elliot said.
Information about the eKids program next year will be released in term 1, 2021.
Avoca Primary student Jack with his 3D printed plug. Image: Avoca Primary School