ELSA nominated for AFR Higher Education Award for their efforts in ECEC STEM
The Sector > Quality > ELSA nominated for AFR Higher Education Award for their efforts in ECEC STEM

ELSA nominated for AFR Higher Education Award for their efforts in ECEC STEM

by Freya Lucas

September 14, 2020

The University of Canberra’s (UC’s) Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) play-based digital program has been shortlisted in the AFR Higher Education Awards 2020. Nominated in the ‘Education Technology’ category, ELSA’s pilot program beat a record number of entries to be in the top four nationwide.


Led by the world-renowned mathematics education researcher behind the Early Years Learning Framework, Centenary Professor Thomas Lowrie, ELSA is informed by ground-breaking pedagogical research, making it unique in the marketplace. The ELSA program aims to build capacity in Australia’s long-term productivity through STEM literacy in the early years.


More than 100 preschools and over 4,300 children across Australia participated in the 2019 ELSA pilot using tablet-based apps developed for tablets and smartphones for children, educators and families. The program encourages children to engage with play-based STEM activities in their centre and outside in the natural environment before and after using the apps, reinforcing STEM concepts in various contexts.


“The national recognition of this innovative project proves how UC can utilise its own world-class research to develop solutions for the future for Australia, in partnership with government, business and the University,” Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor and President said.


Given the renewed focus on STEM for jobs-ready graduates, ELSA’s approach to engaging children in STEM from a young age “is more valuable now than ever,” Centenary Professor Thomas Lowrie, Director of UC’s STEM Education Research Centre (SERC) said. 


ELSA aims to develop curiosity, ambition and inquisitiveness in preschool children, encouraging them to use spatial reasoning to explore without boundaries, and the response to ELSA in preschools from educators and parents “has been incredible”. 


Through participation in the program, educators have reported an increased confidence in delivering STEM focused instruction, and parents have been more willing to speak with their children about STEM processes, noticing that their children’s engagement with STEM “increased dramatically” with ELSA participation.


In 2021, ELSA will be made more widely available to all preschools and early primary school children, with the aim of sparking STEM curiosity from the outset “in an accessible and inviting way”.


The ELSA team will find out if they have been successful in winning their category during the sixth annual Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards 2020, with winners to be announced on 18 November 2020.

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