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Posted by Tegan McClean

on 07/09/2018

Rosary Catholic School has been working with Kate Dilger from the SA Science Teachers Association (SASTA) through 2017 and 2018 to improve teaching and learning outcomes in STEM. A whole school approach has seen teachers across all year levels engage with the engineering design process and plan student challenges that integrate and apply learning from Science, Mathematics and Technology.  

Year 5 teachers, Anne Daw and Lucja Kowalski planned a task to support the science content description: Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted.  

The task they designed was a culminating task that completed their unit of work in Term 1. Below is their reflection on the task and the process.

For STEM, last term we prepared an engineering design challenge to complete our Science unit about light. Students were asked to demonstrate if it was possible to create a maze and then send a light beam through the maze and out the other end by using mirrors. They needed to use at least three mirrors in their design and try to use as many recyclable materials as possible to create their maze.

Rosary Picture 1


We brought the two Year 5 classes together to watch a Mythbusters video, where they tested if light could be reflected from one mirror to another.  We then went through the challenge sheet with the students, explaining the criteria and constraints for their task.

In groups of three, the students planned what they would do and what materials they need to organise.

We then gave the students half a day to work on their challenge.


Rosary Picture 3  Rosary Picture 2

The students enjoyed the task and were focussed and highly engaged with designing and testing their models.  What was interesting for us as teachers, was listening to the conversations that were happening within the groups.  Terms like: the beam is reflecting, or the light is being absorbed, were being used, terms that we had introduced while we were teaching the science unit.  This was so good to hear as it demonstrated that the students had a good understanding of these terms and could use them in a real-life situation.

Rosary Picture 4


The next day the groups did an evaluation of the process and presented their models to the rest of the students. Designs were evaluated against the criteria, i.e. did the beam of light reflect off at least three mirrors and come out the exit?   Each group explained what they thought they did well and what could be done to improve their model if they were given the chance.

Most groups were pleased that they had managed to reflect the light, and many stated that the maze walls were difficult to construct or that there should be more of them.

We were very pleased with the task we had prepared as it engaged the students, it challenged them to use a design process and it showed us that they could apply knowledge and understanding gained throughout the unit of work on light.

Anne Daw and Lucja Kowalski

Rosary Catholic School