A teacher is bringing science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education to life at Lilydale High School.
Tony Vallance is a finalist in the Outstanding Secondary Teacher category of the
Victorian Education Excellence Awards (VEEAs).
He has been nominated for leading the school's own STEAMworks learning space.
Learning with purpose
A biology teacher with a passion for all things tech, Tony sets students tasks and challenges. To meet these, students use STEAM skills including robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing and drones.
But there's more to STEAMworks than using fun equipment. In the toy making project, students design the box using Photoshop and sell their product.
Next year, Tony's Year 10 class will create solutions for local communities in partnership with the Make A Difference project.
Tony has established a partnership with Zoos Victoria. Students will go to Healesville Sanctuary to meet zookeepers and brainstorm improvements to animal feeding and wellbeing.
For their unit on building a hospital of the future, Year 8 students visit the partnering Yarra Ranges Tech School. 'It's awesome - the kids get hands on, real world experience with programming and robotics!' Tony says.
Tony's passion is to improve education. 'We really need to focus on skills,' he says.
'We need to move away from "copy down and regurgitate" and get kids thinking critically, working in teams and communicating. We're trying to get kids as hands on and focused as they can be.'
'My goal is for students to never ask "when are we going to use this?"'
Building interest in STEAM
STEAMworks is so popular that Tony set up lunchtime clubs where students work on their projects or try something new.
'They're passionate because they own what they're doing,' he says.
'When you see what the kids can produce, what they're capable of, and how far they can take their learning with ownership of tasks and challenges - they do amazing work.'
Tony has also set up the STEAMQueens — a girls-only lunchtime club to encourage female students to participate in STEAM subjects and industries. The program is led by female teachers.
'We noticed low levels of engagements in middle and senior school so we wanted to turn that around,' Tony says.
Tony has noticed that girls are now coming into STEAMworks on most days.
'It's been really cool to see them grow their confidence,' Tony says. 'They're becoming experts in their own field and working with everyone else.'
Lilydale High School credits Tony for increasing the number of students that choose to study biology. He says it's because he works collaboratively with the other science teachers.
'Linking up with other teachers grew the popularity, they had so much support,' he says.
'They had teachers at lunchtime and school holidays, all the support they needed in Year 12.'
'Basically it was all about connections, it's a core driver of what I'm all about - connecting with students using empathy.'
The Victorian Education Excellence Awards
Tony says it's very 'humbling and flattering' to be a
'Some first, second, third year teachers have mentioned that it's cool to aim for these kinds of things,' Tony says. 'I haven't thought about it. It's a neat goal for a new teacher.'
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