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Celebrating women in STEM: Breaking barriers & achieving amazing things

Women in Stem Blog Intro


The world is changing before our eyes. Digital technology has become a core part of our everyday lives. It’s predicted that our future workforce will spend more than twice as much time on tasks requiring science, maths and critical thinking than today. 


According to the World Economic Forum’sReskilling Revolution’, 1.1 billion jobs are expected to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade.  

 Future careers will rely heavily on 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, cultural awareness, collaboration and problem-solving. These require a priority focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  

 The National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026 was agreed by education ministers in 2015 through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Education Council. It supports a long-term change agenda to ensure that students have a stronger foundation in STEM. 


So where do girls and women sit in this STEM landscape? 

According to the STEM Equity Monitor 2022 (a national data resource on women’s and girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics), there have been some improvements for girls and women in STEM: 

  • The proportion of girls who know which subjects make up STEM increased by 3 percentage points, growing from 64% in 2019–20 to 67% in 2021–22 
  • The number of women enrolling in university STEM courses increased by 24% between 2015 and 2020. 
  • The proportion of women in STEM-qualified occupations has increased by 2 percentage points, growing from 13% in 2020 to 15% in 2021. 
  • The gender pay gap for full-time workers in STEM industries shrank from $28,994 in 2020 to $26,784 in 2021. 

However, there’s still work to do: 

  • Girls’ confidence in STEM subjects is generally lower than boys  
  • Women only make up 36% of enrolments in university STEM courses, and 16% of enrolments in vocational STEM courses. 
  • Women only make up 27% of the workforce across all STEM industries, a one percentage point drop from 2020. 
  • Just 23% of senior management and 8% of CEOs in STEM-qualified industries are women. 
  • On average, women still earn 18% less than men across all STEM industries. 


The History of Women in STEM 


Women’s underrepresentation in STEM is not a new phenomenon. Historically, formal educational opportunities limited access to the hard sciences and technology. Many women who managed to acquire education were subsequently denied work in STEM fields. Generations of women struggled to achieve success or recognition in what were viewed as male domains.  


Trailblazer Women in STEM Rollcall:

  • Maria Mitchell  

The first internationally known woman to work as a professional astronomer, Maria was also the first American to discover a comet, back in 1847. She was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848. 


  • Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards 

This pioneering environmental chemist and industrial engineer is known for her work in sanitary engineering and domestic science in the1800s. She lay a foundation for home economics and was the first to apply chemistry to the study of nutrition. 


  • Elizabeth Blackwell 

In 1849, Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US (graduating first in her class) and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council in the UK. She tirelessly promoted women in medicine, even when faced with prejudice herself.  


  • Marie Curie 

Curie moved from Poland to Paris to study physics and mathematics, becoming the first woman to become Professor of General Physics at the Sorbonne. Her research led to the isolation of polonium and radium, for which she and her husband won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. Marie went on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. 


  • Gerty Cori 

After decades of struggle for acceptance, Cori became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947 (along with her husband) for her role in the discovery of glycogen metabolism. Thanks to this discovery, we can better understand how the body processes food today.  


  • Rosalind Franklin 

Using X-ray data, Franklin’s breakthrough in genetics and biochemistry was proving the 3D double-helix mosaic structure of DNA in 1953. Franklin died after her work was published, while her three male colleagues were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962. The committee ruled against a posthumous nomination. Dubbed the Dark Lady of DNA, Franklin was unrecognised for much of her work. 


  • Dorothy Hodgkin 

Chemist and STEM advocate, Hodgkin succeeded in determining the structure of penicillin which was crucial for its synthetic manufacturing and the role it plays in modern medicine. Hodgkin was awarded a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964. 


  • Katherine Johnson 

This STEM trailblazer was a mathematical genius who went on to use her geometric knowledge to research and map the flight paths of spacecraft. In the 1960s, her findings were crucial in helping to get the first person to the Moon. 


  • Edith Clarke  

Clarke was an electrical engineering pioneer, earning many firsts, including becoming the first professional female electrical engineer in the U.S. In 1948, she was the first woman inducted into the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. 


  • Admiral Grace Murray Hopper  

In 1952, computer scientist and mathematician, Hopper, developed the first compiler called A-0, which translated mathematical code into machine-readable code. This led her to co-develop COBOL, an early computer language. She also accurately predicted that computers would be an everyday tool, small enough to fit on a person’s desk! 


  • Chien-Shiung Wu  

This Chinese-American nuclear physicist earned many accolades and her 1965 book, Beta Decay, is still a reference for nuclear physicists. Wu’s experiments using cobalt-60, a radioactive form of the cobalt metal disproved ‘the law of parity’ and led to a Nobel Prize in 1957 for two male theoretical physicists, but Wu was excluded. 


  • Dr. Sally Ride  

One of only five women selected for the NASA class of 1978, Dr. Ride went on to become the first American woman in space in 1983. At age 32, she was also the youngest American astronaut to have flown in space. 


Despite setbacks and struggles, these women broke down barriers, challenged the status quo and set an example for future generations of women in STEM. Continue the STEM Pioneer Deep dive here and here. 


Incredible Women in STEM Today 


Women in STEM fields are also making huge strides today, as well as inspiring the next generation. Some of these movers and shakers include: 

  • Dr. Joanne Liu  

As the first female international president of Doctors Without Borders, Liu played a key role in responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the Cholera epidemic in Haiti and is a passionate advocate for improving global health systems. 


  • Dr. Jane Goodall  

A renowned primatologist and conservationist, Goodall has made groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of chimpanzee behaviour. She is also a tireless advocate for animal rights and conservation efforts. 


  • Dr. Fei-Fei Li  

A computer scientist and AI (Artificial Intelligence) expert, Li is known for her work in developing large-scale image and video recognition systems. She’s a pioneer in AI and machine learning and a ‘researcher bringing humanity to AI’. 


  • Dr. Jennifer Doudna  

This remarkable biochemist and geneticist is best known for her pioneering work on the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that earned her a 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She was named one of the Time 100 most influential people in 2015. 


Inspiring Women in STEM Making a Difference Down Under… 


  • Associate Professor Caroline McMillen  

A leading neuroscientist at the University of Newcastle, McMillen has made significant contributions to our understanding of the developing brain and awarded numerous awards for her work including an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2020. 


  • Dr. Emma Kendrick  

A climate scientist at the University of Tasmania, Kendrick has been at the forefront of research on the impacts of climate change on our unique and fragile ecosystems. 


  • Dr. Adele Green  

A skin cancer researcher at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Dr. Green is a leading expert in her field and has made important contributions to our understanding of the causes of skin cancer and ways to prevent it. 


  • Dr. Melina Georgousakis  

Georgousakis is a public health researcher in infectious diseases, vaccine development and immunisation. She is also the founder of Franklin Women, an Australian social enterprise for women working in health and medical careers.  


The future for STEM Education in Australia 


A 2016 Australian Report by The Smith Family on improving educational outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians noted that, ‘educational attainment is even more important in the technology-rich global 21st century… 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills. However… the uptake of STEM subjects in Year 12 is declining (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2015) as has achievement of technology skills in Years 6 and 10 (ACARA 2015).’ 


There has been progress in recent years when it comes to turning this around and increasing the representation of women in STEM. Governments and organisations are providing support through scholarships, mentorship programs and workshops. There are several funding opportunities available for those interested in enriching STEM education and pursuing careers in STEM fields:  

  • The Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia initiative provides funding for projects that aim to increase public engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 
  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) offers grants for projects that aim to inspire young Australians to pursue careers in STEM fields. 
  • The Australian Academy of Science provides funding for programs that aim to promote science literacy and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM. 
  • The Ian Potter Foundation offers grants for initiatives that aim to enhance STEM education and support young people in pursuing careers in STEM. 
  • The Foundation for Young Australians provides funding for initiatives that aim to inspire young Australians to pursue careers in STEM  
  • Federal funds will help Flinders University support hundreds of Year 9 female high school students in South Australia and the Northern Territory to build STEM and entrepreneurial skills to compete in future opportunities. 


With the support of government, organisations, education and individuals, we can work towards more equitable STEM representation as we prepare students for the exciting opportunities ahead. Let’s keep celebrating the achievements of women and girls in STEM as we power towards a more inclusive STEM-focused future.


How do you support STEM in the classroom? We’d love to hear from you!


One way we make the difference at MTA… 


The Smith Family has long recognised the role technology plays in a child’s education. MTA proudly supports The Smith Family and their Learning for Life Program. (Since 2020, the Program has delivered over 5,000 Digital Inclusion Packs to families in need of digital access which include a laptop and/or an internet package along with Tech Support to ensure families have the support they need to use the technology they receive). 


Join us for STEAMPOSIUM24 too, brought to you by MTA! 


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Introducing LEGO Education BricQ In The Classroom

LEGO Education BricQ Motion Models on Table

Lego Education BricQ box with model and instruction cards

LEGO® Education has developed a comprehensive range of STEAM products that encourage students of all ages to design and create. Their latest product, BricQ Motion, is designed for students at primary and lower secondary school year levels. This wonderful kit provides hands-on STEAM learning experiences for students to explore forces and motion and their interactions.

There are two different kits in the LEGO Education BricQ Motion range:

    • LEGO Education BricQ Motion Essential – Foundation – Year 5
    • LEGO Education BricQ Motion Prime – Year 5 – Year 8

Both of these kits provide students with templates/lessons that support the learning of STEAM concepts without the need for a device in hand. The kits are colour-coded, making it so much easier for students to locate the various LEGO pieces than ever before.

BricQ box open, Ariel view

LEGO Education BricQ Motion Essential Kit 
The BricQ Motion Essential Kit is a hands-on STEAM solution for early years students. This kit allows students to explore physical science and experiment and create to bring it to life. The science concepts that this set covers include:

    • push and pull
    • forces and friction
    • energy and motion

Set includes:

    • 523 LEGO elements
    • storage box and sorting trays
    • two building instructions booklets
      • Book 1 aimed at students from Foundation-Year 2
      • Book 2 aimed at students from Year 3-5


LEGO Education BricQ Motion Prime Kit 
The BricQ Morion Prime Kit challenges students in Year 5-8 to apply scientific inquiry skills while inspiring them to deepen their understanding of forces, motion and energy.
Science concepts that this set covers include:

    • Newton’s law of motion
    • forces and friction
    • energy and motion
    • scientific inquiry

Set includes:

    • 562 LEGO elements
    • building instruction booklet
    • storage box and sorting trays

Built LEGO BricQ Model on table

To support teachers to get the most from these kits along with all other LEGO products, teachers can find detailed lesson plans on the LEGO Education website that include video tutorials and templates as well as additional challenges for students to explore, all linked to the curriculum.

There are currently two curriculum units available for the BricQ Motions kits on the LEGO Education website that are designed for teachers to follow to support students in developing key curriculum learning outcomes.
Each curriculum unit contains:

    • seven to eight lessons of 45 minutes each
    • 30 minutes of literacy and maths extension activities for each lesson
    • six to ten hours of educational content

Curriculum Unit: Train to Win (Years F – 2)
The ‘Train to Win’ curriculum unit explores the concepts of forces and motion. Students explore a range of investigations about the cause and effect of push and pull forces.

Curriculum Unit: Winning with Science (Year 3-6)
The ‘Winning with Science’ curriculum unit explores the concepts of forces and motions with a focus on the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces. Students investigate the patterns within an object’s motions and begin to predict and determine its future motion.

Built LEGO BricQ Model 2 on table

Lesson Ideas:
Whenever I introduce a new resource into the classroom, I believe it is important to allow students time to explore and engage with the resource to gather an understanding of what it can achieve.

The great thing about the LEGO Education kits is that the possibilities are truly endless. Teachers can choose to follow the lesson guides provided or allow students the opportunity to create their own masterpieces to suit their learning experience.

When introducing the LEGO Education BricQ Motion set, I had students work in pairs to recreate one of the creations within the lesson guides. When students completed their design, they each shared their creations with another group. Once students have the understanding of how the BricQ set works and the various elements provided within the kit, I can confidently provide students with challenges aligned to our units of work, where they can use the lesson guides as a starting point and then adapt and change where needed to design their own creation.

Below are some lesson ideas to engage your students with the LEGO Education BricQ Motion sets.

Built LEGO BricQ Model 3 on table

LEGO Education Mini Olympics
With the Olympics planned to go ahead this year, students can recreate many of the events using BricQ Motion. Students can explore and create the different science concepts whilst having fun and competing in various Olympic events. Teachers can connect learning to not only the science curriculum but also the mathematics curriculum by creating tallies and totals of the results for each event.

Events to include in your mini Olympics:

Rally Racing:

*Refer to the Gravity Car Derby lesson on the LEGO Education website as a guide for students to use and adapt.

    • Design a car to race against others.
    • Students can create a variety of prototypes, testing wheel sizes, number of lego pieces etc to create the fastest moving car.
    • Race the cars on a flat surface or alternatively create a small ramp and see which car travels the furthest.

LEGO BricQ Gravity Car Model on table

Sailing Cars

*Refer to the Sailing Car lesson on the LEGO Education website.

    • Students create their own Sailing Car.
    • Explore what type of sail they would like to use ie paper thickness, sail size
    • Race the Sailing Cars to see whose Sail Car travels the furthest.

LEGO BricQ Sailing Car Model on table


ShotPut Throw:

* Refer to the Free Throw Catapult lesson on the LEGO Education website

    • Students create a prototype to project a ball the furthest.
    • Place small balls into the catapult to see how far their shot-put (small ball) travels.

Various Challenges:
The LEGO Education BricQ Motion kits provide many open-ended challenges for students to complete. These can be connected to the units of work you cover throughout the year.

Here are some challenges you might want to try with your students:

    • Design a playground that shows different types of forces.
    • Create something with a pulley function.
    • Create a car of the future.
    • Create an obstacle course.

Built LEGO BricQ Model 4 on table


How will you use LEGO® Education BricQ Motion in your classroom? We’d love to hear from you!


About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award-winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at and @misskyritsis


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Screen-free STEAM Games

Cyber Attack game extreme close up

The skills of problem solving, critical thinking and creativity can be taught through STEAM learning experiences using robots, apps and technological gadgets, but how can we continue to provide children with opportunities to develop these STEAM skills without needing to use these technologies?

In this blog, we explore five games that support STEAM learning that can be conducted at home or school that do not involve technology or screen time.


ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

Age: 8+
Players: Single or collaborative game play
40+ challenges per game

The Code Programming Game Series contains three games that were created by Mark Engleberg, a teacher and former programmer for NASA. These games are designed to build the skills needed to learn key coding concepts. They allow students to work through over 40 challenges from beginner to expert level. Each of these games develops students’ understanding of problem solving and computational thinking. All three games in this collection are screen-free, unplugged coding experiences.

Featured Products:

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series


On the Brink

On the Brink Coding Game challenge booklet and box spead out on table

On the Brink teaches procedures and problem solving skills through its single or multi-player game. The aim of the game is to use your problem solving skills to program the robot to move along the different game boards using the coloured control panel and movement cards. Each panel on the control panel has space for two movement cards which you need to program to move the robot from start to finish.

On the Brink Coding Game. Movement Cards spread out on table

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Movement cards (grey = beginner, yellow = advanced)
    • Control panel
    • Robot character


Featured Product:

On the Brink

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series



Rover Control

Rover Control game spread and box on table

Rover Control teaches control structures and problem solving skills through its single or multiplayer game. The aim of the game is to move the rover from start to finish. The rover can only be programmed to travel on the coloured paths. The game board has been wiped off the coloured paths, and players must use the clues to redesign the path and program the robot character to move it from start to finish for each mission.

Rover Control Game on desk

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Solution booklet
    • Game boards – Terrain cards x 4 (beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert)
    • Whiteboard markers with erasers (red, green, blue)
    • 2 x rovers (yellow, purple)
    • Tokens that include (charging station, data upload, and rover start and end discs)


Featured Product:

 Rover Control

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series



Robot Repair

Robot Repair Game on on table

Robot Repair teaches logic principles which are a key part of programming. The aim of the game is to fix the four broken robots by connecting colours and wires on each of the game cards through the clues given on each mission challenge.

This game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instruction manual
    • Solutions booklet
    • Game boards
    • Tokens (power cells, on/off and true/false)

Featured Product: 

Robot Repair Game

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series


Pixel Plezier

Pixel Plezier game box on table

Age: 5+
Players: Single or pairs

Pixel Plezier is a puzzle game that helps students develop their understanding of binary code by creating pixel characters. Binary code represents text, computer processor instructions and any other data using a two-symbol number system consisting of ‘0’ and ‘1’ from the binary number system.


Pixel Plezier game complete set on table

Within the kit there are 8 puzzles to create and solve. This is a great activity to have students complete on their own or working collaboratively in pairs. Each kit contains 8 puzzles and 4 coding mats (2 boards 7×7 and 2 boards 6×6).

Using this template, students can extend this game by creating their own Pixel binary code for others to solve.

Download: Pixel Plezier Template

Featured Product: 

Pixel Plezier


Cyber Attack Board Game

Cyber Attack game box and board on table

Age: 6+
Players: 2-4

The Cyber Attack Board Game supports students in developing their understanding of cyber safety and how to act and behave online. It follows the format of traditional board games with question cards related to digital problems that students may encounter online. If students get the answer correct they can either proceed forwards two places in the game or can move an opponent back two places. If they get an answer incorrect they move two places back.

Cyber Attack game close up

This game can be extended by having students create their own question cards. This personalises the game, particularly if you have certain rules at school or home related to using a device and how to act and behave online.

Featured Product:

Cyber Attack Game


About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at and @misskyritsis


 Featured Products: 

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

On the Brink

Rover Control

Robot Repair Game

Pixel Plezier

Cyber Attack Game



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What Does STEM Mean In Early Childhood?

Child moving beads around a wired maze

The term ‘STEM’ is often a grey area for educators and parents alike. What exactly is it? How do I incorporate it into my curriculum planning or home? What resources do I need to help me do this?

Well, STEM refers to the integrative exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The focus on STEM in early childhood has grown dramatically over the years with the rise of technology and an increased understanding of the importance of these areas for life and careers of the future (think problem solvers, explorers, creative thinkers. Think building resilience in kids to create resilient adults).

So how do you incorporate STEM into your little one’s world? You may be surprised to realise that you are probably already doing this every day. Have you ever cooked with your child at home or with children in the classroom?

Think about all of the STEM moments that were happening:

Adding a cup of flour / oil / water = Maths (capacity and volume)
Adding an ingredient one by one, such as three eggs = Maths (numbers, counting and one-to-one correspondence)
How are we going to get the eggs out of their shell? = Engineering
Mixing different ingredients and observing the outcome = Science
Using senses to see, touch, smell, taste and hear = Science
Was the recipe from a book or was it from an online source? = Technology
Placing the mixture in the oven and watching it rise = Science
How many cupcakes did we make? = Maths

Twelve baked treats with numbers one to twelve written on top

Think about when your little one has a bath. Are there toys that sink and float? What about a cup that they fill up and pour out. These are all STEM moments.

Do you go on nature walks and explore? Play with loose parts and make patterns or create structures? Do you value box construction play? Do you have blocks in your classroom or home? STEM moments! Have you seen children looking for butterflies? Counting petals on a flower? Building a cubby house? STEM moments!

Child moving beads around a wired maze

Do you have toys with magnets? Have you ever built a marble run? Do your children build with Lego? STEM moments! Have you ever tried oobleck / playdough / kinetic sand? Do you have a tinker table in your classroom or home? Compost bin or worm farm? Light table? Torch?

Child picking up bells with a large magnet

Featured Product:  Colourful Bells



Often, without us even realising, the intertwined relationship of these disciplines is occurring and children are learning and developing through play. Have you ever observed a child building a block tower? They will often count the number of blocks used and measure the height of the tower against themselves: “The tower is taller than me!” That’s engineering, maths and science entwined right there.

One to twelve numbers made up of marbles and bolts

Whilst STEM is occurring naturally within a quality early childhood classroom setting through open-ended play opportunities and resources, STEM based activities may be intentionally planned at times too. For example, after reading The Three Little Pigs story, children might be encouraged to try and build a house of their own design from sensory materials such as recyclables / loose parts / blocks that can withstand the force of the wolf’s huff and puff (aka a fan). Beebots are often a part of schools’ curriculum planning and this may take on not only a coding role but also additional STEM elements.

A STEM construction using toilet paper rolls and straws

Recently, we adopted silkworms into our home as ‘simple pets’ (full disclosure – 100 silkworms who are extremely hungry and need to be fed mulberry leaves constantly are not as ‘simple’ as I had anticipated). The language and learning around this was phenomenal and probably the reason you will find silkworms in a lot of Kindergarten classes around August and September every year.

Silkworms moving around green leaves

Not only was it a great science-based project but we also spent time looking online and in books for information on how to care for them. We counted how many we had and added numbers as new silkworms were cocooning each day, we spoke about how we could help them find a space to cocoon (as they need to spin off something, usually a corner – our solution was to cut cardboard tubes into small cylinders and place around the box for the silkworms to cocoon inside) and so much more.

Silkworm cocoon close up

During the early years, children spend much of their time playing, however in an early learning environment the planning, scaffolding and intentional teaching that occurs is shaping those little minds and they are actually LEARNING THROUGH PLAY.

The blocks aren’t out only for fun. The opportunities for STEM learning while playing with blocks are endless. Not only are the children developing mathematical skills through engineering with 3D shapes, developing an understanding of quantity, number sense, spatial awareness and geometry, block play also develops science skills through the properties of materials, stability and balance.

Playing with loose parts offers children the opportunity to explore different materials, build and construct, use their imagination, count and make patterns, test density and stability and so much more.

Child stacking colourful counters

Featured Product: Stackable Counters


STEM in early childhood is occurring every day through observation, exploration, investigation, experimentation and most importantly – PLAY. “Play is not a break from learning. It is endless, delightful, deep, engaging, practical learning. It’s the doorway into the child’s heart!” ~ Vince Gowmon

How do you Incorporate STEM into your classroom ? We’d love to hear from you!

About Brea

Brea Brand is an experienced teacher who is currently completing her Master of Education in Early Childhood. She has extensive experience working with young children, from working in schools, childcare centres, as a nanny and tutor as well as with her own three young children. Brea is passionate about learning through play and the social and emotional development of young children.  Follow @wonder.and.awe for play and learning inspiration for both school and home.

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What Is A Makerspace?

Tools and equipment on desk for a makerspace activity

What is a Makerspace?

A Makerspace can be any space in your school where students are able to come together to design, experiment, invent, craft and create. Makerspaces typically have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) focus, but can be tailored to apply to learning across all subject areas. Continue reading “What Is A Makerspace?”