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Category: Out of school learning
Suitable ages: Primary and secondary
STEM excursions can inspire interest for students and increase their awareness of STEM careers. The most successful excursions leave students feeling excited and curious as they return to STEM learning in the classroom.
A STEM excursion can be to a workplace, museum, university, or specialised educational centre. It can involve a single class, multiple classes, or simply a group of students who express interest. Examples include:
- Immersive space-themed excursions to the Victorian Space Science Education Centre.
- CSIRO’s PULSE@Parkes program, where senior secondary students get to control the Parkes radio telescope, guided by professional astronomers.
- Excursions to the Groundwater Replenishment Visitor Centre run by Water Corporation in Western Australia.
|Real-world learning opportunities||Timetabling can pose a challenge|
|Exposure to STEM careers and role models||Significant organisation and planning required|
|Fun, exciting, and can stimulate curiosity for further STEM learning||Short duration makes it difficult to directly improve achievement, but can certainly impact engagement|
There is not enough clear evidence to draw a conclusion about the impact of this initiative type on student STEM engagement or achievement.
There is not enough research evidence to make general claims about whether school STEM excursions are effective. Much reported evidence is anecdotal, rather than systematic. This does not mean that STEM excursions don’t work. It just means that there is an opportunity for more research. If planning a STEM excursion, be sure to evaluate its success. More information can be found on the I want to evaluate a STEM initiative page.
- A Day at the Museum: The Impact of Field Trips to Informal Science Education Institutions on Middle School Science Achievement by Emilyn Ruble Whitesell. This study evaluated the impact of science excursions on results in standardised science exams. It found small positive effects.
STEM excursions take a wide variety of forms requiring various levels of preparation and costs. If you are a school looking for STEM excursion ideas, the STARportal is a good place to start.
- Communicate early between the school and host organisation so everybody involved understands the purpose, schedule and requirements of the excursion.
- Assess risks and comply with relevant legal and regulatory requirements.
- If possible, link the excursion to classroom STEM learning. This extends the impact of the excursion into the classroom.
- Engage parents with information about the excursion and how it helps students’ STEM education.
Hosting school excursions can be a great way for businesses to support STEM education. Students benefit from experiencing a STEM workplace. They meet STEM professionals and see real-world STEM issues and practice. Businesses and schools should work together to design an excursion program that supports student engagement and achievement.
Businesses can either work in partnership with a single school or design an excursion program that many schools can access.
Case study: Victorian Space Science Education Centre
The Victorian Space Science Education Centre hosts immersive, scenario-based excursions on space-related topics. In the Primary Expedition to the M.A.R.S. Base, students receive flight suits then watch a movie that flies them to Mars for a scientific mission. Once there, they do a wide range of collaborative science and technology activities. Students gain confidence and inspiration from imagining themselves as adventurous scientists and technologists. All activities link to the curriculum. Teachers receive materials to help them teach related STEM content before and after the excursion. Approximately 13,000 primary and secondary students visit the centre per year.