Schools

Engage the community

Introduction

A key approach to engaging and motivating students to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in STEM is to foster relationships with industry, TAFEs, universities and business. These relationships provide students with diverse role models, access to specialised equipment, authentic local contexts and STEM expertise.

Female role models

While female students will benefit from STEM role models of both genders, it is particularly important to use these engagements to provide diverse female role models.

A US study found that less than 50% of girls know a woman in a STEM career (The Girl Scout Research Institute, 2012).

Engaging with external experts can feel intimidating. Read the case studies below to spark some ideas and then review the tips for information on how to get started in forming some relationships with STEM role models.

Case studies

Explore how other teachers and schools have engaged with community partners to create rich STEM experiences for their students. 

  • Cessnock Learning Community

    Local industry

    NSW
  • Glasshouse Christian College

    University of the Sunshine Coast

    Qld
  • Mabel Park State High School

    aged, health and disability providers (video)

    Qld
  • Thuringowa State High School

    James Cook University (video)

    Qld
  • Townsville Grammar School

    Science professionals

    QLD
  • Heathfield High School

    Local industry (video)

    SA
  • Sacred Heart College Kyneton (Vic)

    Lambley Nursery

    VIC

Tips for engaging with experts

  • Join an existing program, such as STEM Professionals in Schools.

  • Engage with families and the local community to identify who has interest or expertise in the topic being studied.

  • Make personal contact via a phone call, then follow up with an email to the identified contact.

  • Meet with the experts before they engage with students.

  • Be clear on roles and expectations.

For a detailed guide on collaborating with role models, explore the Techbridge Creating connections with role models resource. You can also share the SciGirls Role model strategies resource with potential community partners.

Excite the school community

There are many different models for engaging with STEM experts. Select the approach that best fits your context. Think about whether this should be an opportunity for a single class, a whole year level, multiple year levels, or even multiple schools. 

Ideas to get you started

  • Women in STEM panels: Invite women from a range of STEM occupations and career levels to discuss a key topic as a panel. Aim for diversity in the panel, and consider inviting a female STEM expert to host the discussion.
  • Female student panels: Invite female TAFE and university students across a range of STEM disciplines to discuss a key topic as a panel. Aim for diversity in the panel and consider inviting a female STEM expert to host the discussion.
  • Mentor programs: Engage with a mentor program to connect girls to women in STEM. View this list of mentor programs sorted by subject focus and location.
  • ‘Speed connections’ with STEM professionals: Invite multiple STEM professionals from across STEM fields and career levels to attend a ‘speed connections’ session. Students meet each STEM professional in turn and have a brief conversation. Students should develop a list of conversation starters before the session.
  • Site visits: Visit local education, industry or business sites to explore STEM in the workplace. Where possible, enable students to see STEM practitioners at work.
  • Sponsored school-based experiences: Many companies provide subsidised experiences where they bring STEM expertise into schools. Explore the programs on offer in your local area.
  • Access to industry equipment: Connect with education, industry or business groups to explore options for students to access industry equipment either at school or on site.
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