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Riverside Girls High School

Riverside Girls High School

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Telephone 02 9816 4264


STEM and design thinking

Where to with STEM education?

After attending the STEM enrichment academy at Sydney University in 2014, our teachers introduced new approaches to problem based learning activities and the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

We were one of only 8 schools in NSW selected to be a STEM Action School for 2016-2017.  This saw six of our teachers mentor final year pre-service teachers and early career teachers of science, technology and mathematics and also share effective STEM pedagogy and illustrate innovative practice for student engagement in STEM. They demonstrate effective leadership, provide professional learning for schools across the state, focus on excelling in student career path planning and extend industry partnerships.

We have been recognised for having a clearly articulated STEM vision across the school. Our teachers demonstrate exemplary teaching approaches and are finding new ways to engage students. We are investing in high quality resources such as lego mindstorms for robotics, 3D printers, stemcell units to include more electronics in science, LED and conductive thread to illuminate textile projects and fast computers to run CAD and film production software programs.

But changing the tide to get more students, particularly girls, actively engaged in STEM skills and careers goes beyond the walls of Riverside.

We have partnered with local councils, businesses, universities and industry to bring the best knowledge to our students and to get our students out into the community and engaged in real-world experiences. Such partnerships also involve mentoring for our teachers, helping bring skills from industry into the education sector.

We are implementing innovation in STEM and can think of ourselves as a school preparing students for the future.

Students embrace design thinking

Design thinking is a tool that is used by companies around the world, like Apple, Google, Commonwealth Bank of Australia to name a few, and encourages people to think of problems laterally and in a holistic manner. Design thinking also puts an emphasis on the process rather than the finished product.

Riverside students explore design thinking both in the classroom and at opportunities such as the collaborative workspace for student entrepreneurs, called ‘the hatchery’ and the ‘young change agent’ social enterprise program.

At UTS: hatchery, coaches guide the group through core design thinking techniques from Empathy and Ideation to Prototyping and Testing.

'How might we increase recycling amongst young people?' was the problem Riverside students tackled using the design thinking process. The students developed prototypes of their suggestions. One design included a bin that compliments those who throw recycling in and throws back the article if it is not recyclable (perhaps with a shameful throwaway line). The prototypes didn’t have to be feasible but had to address the feelings and needs of the user. Students learnt how to ask questions of users so they would be empathetic of these needs and feelings during the design process.

Changing student mindsets

It was inspiring to hear students after this workshop at UTS describe themselves as ‘designers’. Before the workshop, they described themselves as creative thinkers.  This label changed to ‘designers’ who could create solutions to a real world issue through the process of design thinking.

By the end of the day, all 20 students considered themselves to be designers and very creative.

The workshop allowed students to have a discussion based on trust to be able to listen to each other and at times alter their opinions. They were able to say, ‘I’ve opened my mind to something new’ and this after all is the basis of innovation.


The Design Thinking workshop has really developed my critical thinking skills and further developed my teamwork skills.  This experience has really benefited me and prepared me for Senior School.  It was definitely a blast!

- Madeline (Year 11)

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