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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education has become the focus of considerable political, industry and media commentary. Widespread concern about Australia’s performance in STEM disciplines, the take-up of STEM careers and the likely impact on Australia’s international competitiveness has resulted in the development and publication of the Education Council’s National STEM School Education Strategy (2015). The strategy describes STEM as either the teaching of the disciplines within its umbrella or a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching that increases student interest in STEM-related fields and improves students’ problem-solving and critical analysis skills. It sets two goals for STEM education in Australia and five key areas for national action.

ACARA’s STEM Connections project aimed at investigating a cross-disciplinary approach to the teaching of STEM disciplines. In collaboration with the Australian Association of Mathematics teachers, ACARA supported 13 schools from around the country to develop an integrated STEM project that had its basis in the real world and incorporated the Australian Curriculum learning areas of Mathematics, Science and Technologies. While the project was implemented before the publication of the National STEM School Education Strategy, it addressed the strategy’s first goal and, in part, each of the strategy’s five key areas for national action.

The STEM Connections report, illustrations of practice and work samples available on this page are products of the project. The illustrations of practice explore the experiences of five of the participating schools and the work samples provide examples of integrated STEM tasks.

The interdisciplinary nature of STEM in these projects is evident. While annotations for work samples have been identified as one or other of the Australian Curriculum STEM learning areas (Science, Technologies, Mathematics), it is important to note that the skill is often developed in all three. As engineering is addressed across the curriculum through Science, Technologies and Mathematics and in a dedicated content description focusing on engineering principles and systems at each band in Design and Technologies, content relating to engineering is identified under the most appropriate Australian Curriculum learning area for each project.