Little Scientists, a not-for-profit professional development program offering STEM workshops for early childhood educators and teachers, invited delegates across Australia to its second biennial educator conference, Sonic Boom.
The conference, held in late August on the University of Sydney campus, took place over two days. Delegates enjoyed keynote speakers and exciting breakout sessions on day one and the second day was dedicated to full-day inquiry-based STEM workshops.
The conference kicked off with two keynote speakers who inspired, fascinated and entertained more than 100 visitors.
Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, highlighted the importance of starting STEM early in a child’s life. She focused on gender bias and inspired educators to review their own practices to overcome stereotypes in STEM.
Well-known actor, musician and author Justine Clarke sang, danced, clapped and roared while connecting music and STEM. She delighted everyone by accompanying her dinosaur song with related inquiry questions.
The middle of the day was dedicated to a variety of breakout sessions equipping early childhood educators with ideas, educational tools and most of all excitement about age-appropriate STEM inquiry with 3-6-year-old children. The sessions focussed on topics such as sustainable living and teaching, reflective educator practice and STEM inquiry projects in early childhood as well as Little Scientists’ links to the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
At the end of a fun-filled day, the audience was introduced to Senior Engineer Tom Mogridge from Dyson, who showcased how technology can help educators learn, interpret and demonstrate STEM topics, specifically air science and air quality. His description of Dyson’s engineering process revealed many similarities with engineering and design processes in early childhood, where children create solutions through trial and error.
The second day was entirely dedicated to STEM inquiry workshops, which focussed on the topics air, acoustics and optics, enhancing educators’ STEM knowledge through participating in hands-on activities. The workshops aimed to introduce inquiry-based learning concepts into educators’ programming practices and kindle excitement for child-led STEM discovery and research.
Commenting on the workshops, Sibylle Seidler, the program’s Project Director, noted, “Little Scientists upskills educators in building co-constructed learning environments and educators who engage in our training feel more confident in embedding STEM exploration into their settings.”
The Little Scientists project has been supported and funded by the Australian Government Department of Education through the National Innovation and Science Agenda since 2016.
Guest post by Heike Hendershot. For more information on STEM workshops please see visit Little Scientists.