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Early Learning STEM Australia nominated for an AFR Higher Education Award

10 September 2020: The University of Canberra’s Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) play-based digital program has been shortlisted in the AFR Higher Education Awards 2020. Nominated in the ‘Education Technology’ category, ELSA’s pilot program beat out a record number of entries to be in the top four nationwide.

“The national recognition of this innovative project proves how UC can utilise its own world-class research to develop solutions for the future for Australia, in partnership with government, business and the University,” said Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor and President.

More than 100 preschools and over 4,300 children across Australia participated in the 2019 ELSA pilot using tablet-based apps developed for tablets and smartphones for children, educators and families. The program encourages children to engage with play-based STEM activities in their centre and outside in the natural environment before and after using the apps, reinforcing STEM concepts in various contexts.

Led by the world-renowned mathematics education researcher behind the Early Years Learning Framework, Centenary Professor Thomas Lowrie, ELSA is informed by ground-breaking pedagogical research, making it unique in the marketplace. The ELSA program aims to build capacity in Australia’s long-term productivity through STEM literacy in the early years.

“With the renewed focus on STEM for jobs-ready graduates, ELSA’s sophisticated approach to engaging children in STEM from a young age is more valuable now than ever,” said Centenary Professor Thomas Lowrie, Director of UC’s STEM Education Research Centre (SERC). “We are developing curiosity, ambition and inquisitiveness in preschool children, encouraging them to use spatial reasoning to explore without boundaries—but most importantly, ELSA is fun!”

“The response to ELSA in preschools from educators and parents has been incredible. Many educators have told us that their confidence in delivering STEM has increased, parents have said that their willingness to talk about STEM processes has increased, and that their children’s engagement with STEM increased dramatically with ELSA.

“In 2021, we aim to make the project more widely available to all preschools and early primary school, so that STEM curiosity can be sparked from the outset in an accessible and inviting way.”

The winners of the sixth annual Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards 2020 will be announced on 18 November 2020.