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Research shows UC’s ELSA Program significantly boosts STEM outcomes and improves language skills, rolling out now for 2023

Kelly White

12 December 2022: More than 400 early childhood centres and preschools around Australia have now used the ELSA Program, and evidence from the University of Canberra shows that both educators and students achieve considerably better STEM outcomes thanks to the program.

In 2016, the STEM Education Research Centre (SERC) was awarded $5.6 million by the Australian Government to create the Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) Program.

Now, the program has been used by over 400 early childhood centres and preschools around Australia, with research showing huge improvements across the domains of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

Research shows that for children using ELSA, STEM literacy skills improved at a rate three times higher (x3) than for children not in the ELSA Program. In numeracy, children improved at a rate twice (x2) that of children not in ELSA.

Educators have also benefited from using the program, with research showing that their understanding, interest and confidence in teaching STEM content improved.

Director of the STEM Education Research Centre, Centenary Professor Tom Lowrie, says the results are a heartening example of education research being utilised in the classroom, to the benefit of educators and students.

“We developed this program to fill a STEM education gap in early childhood years,” Professor Lowrie said.

“The ELSA program provides a tangible tool for our researchers to share the most up-to-date, evidence-informed STEM education approaches directly with practising educators.”

“The ELSA Program is now attracting considerable interest from overseas governments and it’s great to have such strong support in Australia too.”

The program features a suite of play-based digital apps for children, as well as an Educator App and a Families app, and more than 100 classroom activities for children to engage in –ensuring a healthy balance between digital play and physical play.

Each app engages children in a different STEM skill. The program has 16 apps grouped into 4 bundles – Patterns and Relationships, Location and Arrangement, Representations, and Investigations.

The app also includes 30+ lesson plans created by the SERC’s team of education specialists.

Additionally, ELSA has proven an invaluable tool for supporting STEM education for children for whom English is a second language.

Boopa Werem Kindergarten and Preschool is a non-profit kindergarten in Cairns. Educators at the centre have been using ELSA to teach STEM practices to the centre’s young children, especially those who have English as a second language.

“ELSA’s App 2 has been really good for a lot of our children where English is a second language because they speak a creole or Aboriginal English and they don’t use all those words necessarily all the time,” said Boopa Werem’s Kindergarten Teacher, Lynne Ireland.

“It’s helpful to see which words they understand, and which ones they don’t. For example, Jasleen , who speaks Punjabi, is getting more confident with English and it’s helping her to think about those positional words.”

Lynne is also pleased that the ELSA Program uses tools and resources that already exist within their centre.

“I really like the Educator App and the examples of the Experience, Represent and Apply sequence. They help you think about all the things that you have already and how you can use them in different ways.”

The ELSA Program is now available to all Australian preschools, child care centres, and primary school foundation years.

As part of the program, you will receive 16 world-class digital apps for children, 100+ activity ideas, STEM books and games, 30+ lesson plans and access to the professional learning course.

If you’d like to see how the program could work at your centre or school, visit to find out more.