Over the years, the education community has discussed how education should be developed and it seems that there are many different answers among educators in Hong Kong. Yet to Ms To Yuen-man, the Subject Head of Science Research in Maryknoll Fathers’ School (MFS), STEM education should always be student-oriented and student-centred.
‘All we want to achieve is to enhance students’ motivation and engagement in learning,’ said Ms To. ‘Besides, we also hope to cultivate their critical thinking and problem solving skills, so that they can be more independent, and will be able to tackle the problems they encounter in the future.’
Cross-curricular activities are organised in MFS from time to time. Teachers from different subjects will first come up with the key knowledge and skills that they want the students to acquire in a particular school year, then they will design project-based activities accordingly for students.
Last year the school hosted a project called ‘A Day as a Paleontologist’, in which students practised the skills of gathering data and applied their cross-subject knowledge of Mathematics, Biology, Geography and Information and Communications Technology to find out the weights of different species of dinosaurs.
The project was really successful in terms of arousing students’ interest in learning. They realise that what they have learnt in different subjects are actually very useful and can be applied to problem solving,’ said Ms To.
Innovative Learning Group
In MFS, there is an Innovative Team consisting of a group of senior secondary students who often take the initiative to design various learning activities and campaigns for lower form students.
‘We provide clear directions and guidelines and let students think over and come up with creative and interesting ideas,’ said Ms To. ‘One of their masterpieces is a set of playing cards about the periodic table in Chemistry, and it is now being used extensively for learning and teaching in lesson.’
Ms To noted that learning had ultimately become student centred and student-oriented in the Innovative Team, since all the decisions, ranging from what to learn, when to begin to how to operate, were made by students.
Science Research Programme
With the support from the Quality Education Fund (QEF), Maryknoll Fathers’ School has launched the Science Research Programme as an elective subject for their junior secondary students. Students who take the subject would spend three consecutive lessons every week conducting science research.
The programme is a three-year course designed for students to understand research methods in science.
The first year of the programme aims to develop students’ critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and creativity. In the first term of the second year, it focuses more on equipping students with the necessary skills to test and evaluate innovative products. The second term of the second year and the third year will be a more in-depth learning process based on the topics of interest chosen by students with teacher’s consultation.
The programme requires students to conduct a research project of their own and present their work in various competitions and symposiums.
‘We never tell the students what to do.’ said Ms To. ‘Even if they need to work on a research topic assigned by teachers, they still have to study the topic, do the research and test different experiment methods by themselves until they are able to come up with the most ideal result.’
Schools Should Be Confident in STEM Education
Ms To has shared her experience with numerous schools regarding the introduction of STEM education. She said a common challenge that schools were facing nowadays was the lack of confidence in implementing STEM on campus successfully.
‘They are always concerned if what they are doing is really related to STEM education, or even doubt if they are on the right track,’ said Ms To. ‘What I want to emphasise is that STEM education is not only about how much budget we have or how many advanced tools we own. It is all about how we can facilitate and motivate students to acquire STEM knowledge and skills for their lifelong personal development, and how we can inspire them to learn happily and proactively.’