Title: STEM and Sustainability (STEMS) Project for Students Aged 15 – 18 (Online only)

Author: Hui-Chuan Li

Theme: Sustainability, Interdisciplinary teaching

Over the past two decades, there has been a growing demand to integrate sustainability across all subjects in the school curricula. However, recent research shows that lessons integrated sustainability have yet to make a significant presence in the classroom. The slow rollout is not surprising given the complexities of sustainability and the challenges faced by school teachers when working across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Therefore, we took a step towards addressing this practice gap by conducting a STEM and Sustainability (STEMS) programme for S5 and S6 learners (ages 15 – 18) in Scotland.

Reported here is a small scale preliminary study of exploring the effects of a STEMS programme on learners’ understanding of sustainability. This STEMS programme implemented at the University of Edinburgh was designed by the authors and implemented by the workshop instructors. A total of 18 learners (10 girls and 8 boys) from different high schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow voluntarily participated this preliminary study. In this talk, we aim to describe the design and implementation of the programme and assess learners’ opinions of its usefulness.

The content of the STEMS programme was specifically organised in four major topics in order to integrate sustainability into STEM subjects. The four topics were: (1) The volume of life on Earth – Biodiversity, (2) A renewable, biodegradable fuel – Biodiesel, (3) A clean source of renewable energy – Wind Power, and (4) Mathematics and climate changes – What the Mathematics is telling us. Results of the learners’ responses to pre- and post-questionnaires indicated that there were statistically significant differences in their confidence in understanding sustainability on the post-questionnaire. Recommendations for future research on out‐of‐school programmes to integrate sustainability into STEM education will also be discussed.