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Full STEAM ahead in Hong Kong schools

Primary Six students at Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School.

During recess, a group of primary students excitedly rushed out of the classroom and could not wait to meet their “cute little friends” in the school’s STEM room.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. The children have been breeding butterflies in boxes as part of a STEM project. 

“I love butterflies. As one of the Butterfly Conservation Ambassadors, I’ve learned a lot about the creatures,” said Kan Chan, a Primary Six student from Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School.

Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School attaches importance to inspiring students to think, allowing them to learn through STEM subjects in class by integrating subjects and encouraging them to participate in inter-school competitions. 

From left to right: Nathan Hui, Rafe Cheung, Gabriel Lau, Kan Chan, Cliff Wong, Ada Lee, and Emma Cheng, observe butterflies in the breeding boxes in the STEM room.

Butterfly Conservation Ambassadors is one of the events. Students can nurture butterflies from caterpillars to adults and share the importance of butterfly conservation with their schoolmates. Through this, they help to raise biodiversity around the school. 

In 2018 -19 school year, Stewards Pooi Kei Primary school won First Runner-up and the Most Popular Award in the Butterfly x Stem Expo organised by Green Power.

However, a new educational approach, “STEAM”, has become more influential in recent years. It is a model of STEM, but adding the Arts along with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subjects.

Chief Executive John Lee has proposed to enrich STEAM education in public-funded schools by 2024-25 through implementing enriched coding education at the senior primary level. The government will “step up the promotion of STEAM education for all, for fun and for diversity” in primary and secondary schools by incorporating more IT learning elements into the curriculum and enhancing professional training on STEAM, according to the Policy Address 2022. 

To align with the STEAM trend, Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School started attaching the “Arts” aspect in recent years. The school’s STEM department has collaborated with Arts and Music teachers to boost students’ aesthetic development. One of the integrated projects was teaching students how to craft their own music boxes.

Students first learn to compose music during music lessons, then they use micro:bit to do songwriting in computer lessons. Finally, they would learn to design and assemble music boxes in Visual Arts lessons. 

Students create their own music boxes in a STEAM-integrated project.

Teachers Lee Chi-kin and Fung Ka-fai, in charge of the STEM group, believe that the STEAM approach will have positive impacts on students. 

Lee believes that STEAM motivates students to learn from their failures. “There are many experiments in STEM. Instead of demonstrating the experiments using videos, we encourage students to do so themselves. During the process, they keep reflecting on their mistakes and try until they succeed. It certainly cultivates their problem-solving skills and boosts their confidence when facing challenges,” he said. 

Fung, the school chairperson of the STEM group, said STEAM offers a chance to teach students moral values, a crucial part of life education. “Students would realise that producing a product is not easy once they have finished creating their music boxes. They will cherish everything they have,” he said. 

Teachers of the STEM Group, Lee Chi-kin (left), Fung Ka-fai (right), guide students to think critically and creatively.

Besides Arts education, Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School has continued to develop other aspects of “STEAM”. In 2020 and 2021, the school participated in the Inter-School City Nature Challenge and emerged as champions for two consecutive years. Students, parents, and teaching staff use an iPad to take photos of animals and plants to analyse the biodiversity around the school and compete in the total number of species found near school. 

“I now know more about biodiversity and understand the reason for protecting our environment. Organisms may suffer even if only one species is lost,” said Cliff Wong, a Primary Six student. 

The school won multiple prizes in STEM competitions over the years.

Stewards Pooi Kei Primary School has also reconstructed the music room into a STEM room, creating a more concentrated environment for students to learn.  

“I like the STEM room very much. It looks like a laboratory with a lot of new and advanced facilities. I am thankful for the school’s efforts to build us a better learning environment,” Wong added. 

STEM Room provides advanced learning tools for students.

Besides schools, there are also education centres actively promoting STEAM education. Eduperience, a tutorial centre aiming to train students to apply STEAM daily, has been offering courses for children and working with schools to design tailor-made curricula for students.

“People usually think STEAM is all about coding and programming. In fact, it isn’t,” said Billy Chan, the centre’s co-founder. He explained that art cultivates children’s aesthetics and creativity, which is essential in solving daily problems and design solutions using technology.  

Viewing STEAM as a “big trend” in the future globally, Chan supports the government's plans to emphasise the application of STEAM on school-based development projects and curricula. 

“It helps STEAM develop in a more sustainable way,” Chan said.  

The other co-founder Ashley Cheung also welcomes the policy, describing STEAM education as “planting seeds for creating talents in Hong Kong”. 

“I believe local talents will be more familiar with what actually happens in the community rather than those foreign professionals being invited to Hong Kong,” Cheung said. 

Allen Leung, a professor of the Department of Education Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, said he supported the promotion of STEAM education from the government since it allows schools to have more resources. “Interdisciplinary learning is hard to incorporate into the standard teaching curriculum, as it requires collaboration among teachers. Having more resources allocated can further enhance students’ learning experience,” Leung added. 

Leung said promoting STEAM education benefits the city’s long-term development. 

“STEAM trains complex problem-solving skills, which are crucial for the fourth industrial revolution. This can affect the competitiveness of Hong Kong,” he said. 

Sandy Li, the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Hong Kong Baptist University, also shared a positive attitude towards STEAM education. He said STEAM is vital for encouraging teenagers to join various emerging industries, which fosters Hong Kong’s development.

“For the past thirty years, Hong Kong’s industries have developed homogeneously as it heavily relied on finance and services. Promoting STEAM can build up students’ interest in Science subjects, cooperate with job opportunities, and attract more talents in the Science field,” he said.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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