CQUniversity teams up on STEM playground project
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > CQUniversity teams up with QVSA to design STEM friendly parks for young children

CQUniversity teams up with QVSA to design STEM friendly parks for young children

by Freya Lucas

April 09, 2024

CQUniversity (CQU) and Education Queensland’s Virtual STEM Academy (QVSA) are exploring the development of parks which engage children in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), focussing on three year old children. 


CQU STEM Central Lead Associate Professor Linda Pfeiffer participated in the QVSA run ‘The STEM for the Small Grand Challenge’ – an ongoing Education Queensland activity that often involves CQU researchers as experts and mentors, sharing her research into STEM in the Park.


Her research focus included looking at ways parks can incorporate STEM into play and park facilities.


“Some parks prompt lots of imaginative play but not many promote STEM-thinking, and some parents might find it challenging to talk to their kids about STEM,” she said.


“Our research involved visiting two kindergartens and conducting small group discussions with three-year-olds and recording their responses to questions about play parks using photo prompts and having the children draw.”


“We then made signs with questions for parents and carers to ask their children. We then placed them in actual play parks. The questions were based on the data analysis from the three-year-olds.”


To expand the concept primary and high school students from across Queensland have also been involved, with Associate Professor Pfeiffer and Associate Professor Gillian Busch recently attending a session at Rockhampton State School during a QVSA livestream.


As an offshoot of STEM in the Park, a ‘STEM for the small’ program, where children in Years 5 and 6 design parks for children based on the work of the researchers has been initiated. 


“The primary school children have 10 weeks with QVSA to plan a solution to a problem. The stem for the small “challenge” is about designing a play park for small children. The QVSA students will present their designs in May,” Associate Professor Pfeiffer explained.


The researchers have presented a deputation to Gladstone Regional Council based on their findings.


“We are seeking funding from the Council to have semi-permanent signs placed in parks that will have QR codes in order to collect further data from users,” she said.


Breeha Sinnamon, Deputy Principal Queensland Virtual STEM Academy at Central Queensland said CQU played a vital role in the STEM for the Small Grand Challenge’ – ‘Grand Challenge’ project.


“Our experts and mentors provide authenticity to our programs – they are able to demonstrate to our students possible pathways in careers and research, mentor the students with their ideas as they work towards their own ideations, and then provide feedback on students’ presentations at the culmination of our Grand Challenge,” she said. 


“There have been times where students have maintained this relationship with our CQU experts, even after their Grand Challenge has finished.”


“Some of our students are working on modifying their own school playgrounds to embed STEM-thinking and STEM-opportunities. As their ideas progress, we will work with them to get their ideas into the real world. Teachers at the students’ schools are also heavily involved in the Grand Challenge and are working on improving their own STEM capabilities to take back to their home schools.”

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