STELR (Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance) is a national initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.
The Academy is an independent body of more than 800 Australian scientists and engineers seeking to enhance Australia’s prosperity through technological innovation.
In the video on the right, taken at STELR’s 500th school celebration, STELR architect, Alan Finkel, explains the rationale behind STELR.
The primary aim of STELR is to address the problem of low participation rates in STEM subjects at the upper secondary school level. It does this by developing teaching modules relating these subjects to highly relevant issues affecting all students.
One major reason for these low participation rates is that students do not perceive and appreciate the relevance of science in their lives, despite being surrounded by science and technology.
STELR taps into the high level of concern that the majority of students have about global warming, climate change and sustainability. By basing the STELR modules around sustainable energy technologies, students see the STELR activities as being highly relevant to their lives. By aiming the modules at students from years 5 and 6 up to year 10, STELR provides ongoing opportunities for them to practice their science skills and build on their science knowledge.
Secondary aims of the project are to:
Teacher evaluation of the STELR program shows that it has an overall positive effect on students’ participation and engagement in learning science and on their perception of the relevance of science in their lives. (See testimonials)
STELR is designed to be taught within the curriculum so that all students at the year level participate in the program, not just selected students.
STELR incorporates contemporary teaching and learning practices, in particular an inquiry-based learning approach that engages and challenges students and teachers.
STELR modules include equipment, curriculum resources for teachers and students and teacher support. Teacher professional learning sessions are provided as well as on-line and telephone support.
The first STELR module to be developed was the STELR Renewable Energy module. Purpose-designed and built equipment provided with the module allows students to undertake both guided and open ended research into solar and wind electricity generation while learning about electric circuits and energy transfer and transformation.
Modified versions of the original module were then produced in response to feedback from teachers. The Essential Renewable Energy module is a less expensive version of the original Renewable Energy module as the multimeters, power pack and cables are not included. As the name suggests, the Wind Energy module contains only the equipment required undertake investigations into wind power. The Electricity and Energy module is aimed at upper primary students as an introduction to electricity and electric circuits.
STELR Solar Car kits were developed as an extension activity to complement the Renewable Energy module. As well as extending students’ inquiries into solar energy and electric circuits, they can be used to gain a better understanding of gears and forces.
The STELR Sustainable Housing module is based on investigations into heat transfer by convection, conduction and radiation and the thermal properties of matter using the context of sustainable house design. Purpose-built equipment sets include a house cube and roof, temperature logging equipment, specialised materials and ‘appliances’ such as a floor heater and ceiling fan.
Additional STELR modules that do not have STELR equipment packs are available on-line. These modules incorporate the STELR principles of hands-on, inquiry-based and in-curriculum learning using everyday items and equipment common to most school laboratories.