Ormiston College STEM Day

“Amazing student led STEM presentations, amazing resources and friendly presenters. What a great day!” (Anonymous Attendee)

There is no doubt that PBL (problem or project based learning) and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) has captured the current zeitgeist of contemporary learning around the globe.  There are many schools in Australia that have realised that they need to do something quickly to enable their students to have the skills and dispositions to survive and thrive when they leave their stretch of education.


One school that is leading the way in Australia is Ormiston College, also a Microsoft World Showcase School.  Annette MacArthur and Tamara Sullivan, along with Rowena Taylor, were our hosts for a very special learning opportunity on November 3, 2016.  

“You always get so much value from visiting school and speaking with other educators. I was so impressed that the children ran the sessions themselves. The sessions on PBL and planning STEM units was fantastic. Congratulations to Ormiston College!” (Anonymous Attendee)

Attendees could access a comprehensive OneNote Notebook filled with STEM and PBL resources during the day, as well as having an opportunity to share a Surface Pro device in a Class Notebook set up.  This is an ideal way to facilitate STEM learning; via a powerful touch device with front and rear cameras and a responsive pen for sketching, inking and easy recording of ideas.

The innovative teachers and leaders of the school facilitated the first session.  After being welcomed by Headmaster, Brett Webster, Annette and Rowena demonstrated how to facilitate STEM and PBL training for teachers, via a fun and simple hydraulics activity.  Having teachers engage in the types of activities that the students need to do, rather than listen to an expert preaching the rhetoric, is a great example of modelling for the teachers.

In this session, the Ormiston approach was outlined and the concept of a transdisciplinary approach to delivering STEM learning was identified.  A deep dive into PBL was also an essential component of this day, with Annette and Rowena clarifying their approach to PBL for the attendees.

“It was great to see what Ormiston are doing with STEM, they have fantastic facilities and it was a really great day.” (Anonymous Attendee)

After morning tea, the students took over.  Teachers could choose three out of four student led workshops. This included:

  • 3D printing and robotic hand
  • Sound sensor and pet water bowl
  • Ozobots and OC disaster (scenario
  • maKey maKey and interactive stories

A feedback survey completed by the attendees showed that the sound sensor with the pet water bowl, and 3D printing with the robotic hand were equal favourite sessions.

robotics, STEM

3D printing and robotics.

Having students run these sessions and teach the teachers is such a powerful activity that is recommend to all schools.  Empowering students to not only demonstrate, but also have the confidence to address adults and offer expert advice is surely a goal of all schools, and we saw excellent examples of this display at Ormiston College.

“An interesting day for many schools who are on the STEM journey, allowing us to see the work in progress at Ormiston College and contextualise it to our own Schools. Came away with more questions than answers, but that is a good thing – as these questions are more focused around what we need to do to get our STEM program working across the School.” (Anonymous Attendee)

After these very successful rotations, teachers had the opportunity to work with one concept in more detail so they could implement it at their school.  Working in table groups, delegates quickly started sharing and collaborating on ideas, based around what they had seen on the day and with support from their table partners.

STEM, maths, classroom learning

STEM in classroom learning

“I walked away feeling that I had the confidence and knowledge to start the process of planning within my school. The sessions showed us that innovation is possible.”

“I walked away feeling that I had the confidence and knowledge to start the process of planning within my school. The sessions showed us that innovation is possible.” (Anonymous Attendee)

So where does Microsoft fit in here?  OneNote is the ultimate STEM tool, as it offers so many ways to collect and display data, results, ideas, research and multimedia content.  Through the Class Notebook, teachers can keep a close eye on the progress of their students and provide rich and dynamic feedback.  Coupled with the Surface Pro and pen, students have the ultimate device for learning and collaborating.

You can access Microsoft’s free STEM and PBL notebooks from this Docs.com collection.  

Written by Matt Jorgensen. Matt Jorgensen is part of the Microsoft Australia Teacher Ambassador and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert programmes