Reaching out with specialist students
During my first week at Monash Tech School, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Monash Special Developmental School (MSDS) to deliver a modified version of the Superpowers program with my mentor teacher, Tori. The ‘outreach’ allowed students to interact with STEM and advanced technologies within a comfortable and familiar setting.
The students explored three different types of energy – motion, sound and thermal – through three different activity stations. The modified program ensured all the specialist students’ needs were being met; the activities were student-centered and primarily hands-on activities that allowed students to engage with the technology and explore the concepts through play.
The first activity consisted of students predicting what types of energy are involved in a cotton reel car, constructing it, and then investigating what energy was present as it ran. Students then used thermal cameras, sound detectors and coloured rulers to measure the extent of the energies formed. They repeated this experiment with bouncing rubber cups, and were able to compare and contrast the two sources of energy.
The students also learnt about two different types of renewable energies: solar and wind. They were shown how a solar car attains its energy, and evaluated how it utilises that energy to function through energy conversions. Additionally, the students designed wind turbines and critically examined which design optimised the amount of energy formed.
Throughout the program, students also had to follow through an alternate version of the Superpowers program booklet. The instructions had been condensed, the booklet included more images, and cut-and-paste options were available for student answers to make the program more accessible. This was very valuable, as a big challenge was how to address the diverse range of ability levels. Through problem-solving and adaptability, we made sure that the students were getting the most out of the program according to their individual needs.
The students were very attentive, engaged, and in awe with all the activities and experiences; the atmosphere of the class was lively and joyful. Walking around the room, you could hear squeals of excitement, laughter and clapping. The feedback we received from both students and teachers was positive and encouraging. It was incredible to see that students had enjoyed the activities and retained fundamental knowledge of the concepts covered, and I am so grateful I was able to play a small role in that.
written by Jeanie Ta