The STEM Club Toolkit is a collection of resources for facilitators of STEM clubs to draw on as they plan for and operate STEM clubs in a variety of contexts. It contains a range of information and resources in key content areas including:
Whether you’re just getting started with your STEM club, or you’re looking for guidance to help improve your STEM club, you’ll find a range of resources that will help you to design, deliver and evaluate dynamic and successful STEM club programs.
The STEM Club Toolkit was commissioned by Inspiring Australia Queensland and developed by researchers at the University of Southern Queensland. In 2017, Inspiring Australia Queensland engaged the University of Southern Queensland to design and pilot an evaluation framework for STEM clubs. As this project progressed, it became clear that there was a broader need for a toolkit that would bring together existing resources on a range of topics related to STEM club operation. Drawing on an environmental scan and literature review conducted for the evaluation framework project, the research team identified a set of key areas that STEM club facilitators need to attend to in order to ensure the success of their club, and a collection of resources that would support practice.
The Toolkit is structured around the following three key areas:
Dip into the Toolkit and explore information and resources that are relevant to you.
Creating a shared vision is the first step in inspiring individuals to commit and give their best to their club. Co constructing a vision statement with participants provides a shared understanding around the purpose and direction of a STEM club. A well articulated vision provides the “guidepost(s)” for decision making.
The following guidelines will help you create a vision for your STEM club.
Including various stakeholders’ voices in the visioning process (other staff, community members, participants) will enable your vision to truly reflect the collective view of all involved.
Use focused questions to guide discussions about your STEM club’s vision, even if those discussions are informal.
Another useful strategy is to engage stakeholders in specific tasks that only take a short amount of time, which will allow more people to contribute.
For example: Place a piece of butchers paper at the entry of your STEM club. Write the question: Use one word to describe the purpose of our STEM club. You can then use this stimulus to engage parent and community stakeholders in a short reflective conversation to identify the top three words, and incorporate these into your vision.
Your vision describes what you want your club to be. Remember it is your destination supported by your club strategy that turns your vision into action. Ask your stakeholders:
Visions inspire teams to achieve goals. Identifying challenging but achievable goals will provide your stakeholders with something to strive towards. Ask your team: What does everyone envision for the club in the future?
A vision is often short, typically 1 to 2 sentences. It needs to be memorable and catchy, able to inspire but more importantly it needs to be understood by all your stakeholders. Ask your team members:
The following resources will help you to co-create an inspiring but useful vision for your STEM club:
Resourcing and funding have a significant influence on the possible impact and longevity of a STEM club. There are, however, a number of options that can be accessed to help in relieving this burden and to support your STEM club to flourish. Often it involves thinking outside the box and some handy work with a search engine!
Below are a number of opportunities to consider as you seek access to resources and funding to support club sustainability.
Forward thinking STEM clubs recognise that planning for sustainability provides an opportunity to consider structures and strategies that need to be put in place to ensure the longevity of the club. Planning for sustainability most effective way to sustain, improve and develop your club.
In order to incorporate forward thinking for sustainability into your club plan, you need to base your plan on where your club wants to go (often reflected in the club vision) and the necessary steps to get there.
A sustainable club plan:
While you don’t need to be a STEM guru to run a STEM club, building and maintaining your professional knowledge in the fast paced STEM space will help you to plan and deliver engaging activities that work. From organised training to MOOCs, formal study to play, there are lots of ways that you can build and consolidate your STEM knowledge.
When considering your professional development options, think beyond formal training and outside your context. For example, you might operate a STEM club outside the school environment, but you might still benefit from professional development that is targeted at teachers.
Your professional development needs might relate to STEM content areas, but don’t forget to look after other aspects of your professional development, too. For example, you might benefit from training about forming and consolidating partnerships, inquiry based learning, or running a not for profit business.
We’ve listed some options below, but a quick Google search will reveal many more options.
Keep your eye out for professional development workshops and courses run by universities. For example:
While these may be targeted at teachers, STEM club facilitators from other contexts could benefit from these too.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are courses offered by a range of learning providers that are generally free to participate in. These structured learning courses are a great way to access the knowledge of experts in the STEM disciplines so that you can learn new skills to support your STEM club activities. Want to learn to code so you can teach your participants to do the same? There’s a MOOC for that – in fact, there’s many! Want to learn about 3D printing so you can use it in your STEM club? There’s a MOOC for that too! You can find courses on a huge range of STEM topics across numerous MOOC providers.
Popular MOOC platforms you might like to check out include:
There are many other providers of professional development opportunities. A couple of examples:
The safety of your STEM club community is of paramount importance in terms of running a functional and secure STEM club. STEM club managers and facilitators need to be aware of their legal requirements and obligations in relation to the safety and security of all STEM club stakeholders which may include members (e.g., students), facilitators, volunteers, parents and guardians, and visitors to the club.
There are a range of questions and issues you should consider when planning for a safe STEM club.
Do your facilitators and volunteers and volunteers have clearance to work with children?
In Queensland, it is necessary for individuals working with children to have a blue card. The blue card system is a prevention and monitoring system aimed at ensuring the ongoing safety of children when participating in activities such as a STEM club. It is recommended that you thoroughly understand the blue card process with further information on their website.
Do club facilitators have regular professional development and training to ensure safety, strategies for club members?
It is important that facilitators have a good understanding of health and safety. Access to training is necessary for all facilitators. The National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA) offer some useful online training courses that you may wish to consider
Undertaking regular risk assessment is a vital exercise in maintaining the safety and security of all involved in your STEM club. In general terms safety management is a proactive process that all stakeholders have some responsibility e.g., cleaning up after spills.
Safety Work Australia offer useful guides and templates around safety management. They recommend
See also Education Queensland Managing Health and Safety Risks from Education Queensland for a useful guide.
Checklists are useful tools in terms of managing risk. Education Queensland offer a range of useful checklists related to classroom safety and working with science equipment and design technologies that you may wish to adapt for your context.
Your STEM club must be equipped with safety equipment that protects members from possible injury. This will likely include goggles, safety gloves, lab coats, etc. It is imperative that you check that all equipment is maintained and fit for purpose. Included in your equipment list is access to a first aid kit that is fully stocked and replaced on a regular basis as necessary.
A further consideration for management of your STEM club is around First Aid training. A number of organisations including St John Ambulance Australia offer regular training sessions.
Do you have a process for recording and if necessary reporting any safety incidents? Ensure you are aware of reporting requirements in your context. If you don’t have a process in place in your organisation, Education Queensland have a procedure that you may wish to adapt for your purposes.
Your approach to advertising your STEM club doesn’t have to be complicated â¦ in fact, sometimes simple is best and less in more!
Three things to keep in mind when considering how to communicate what your STEM club does and why.
This guide to promoting your club might be sport club orientated, but will provide you with insights about how to use these tools effectively and with purpose
This guide contains a lot of information about running a STEM club, but is particularly helpful in terms of approaches to successfully advertising and marketing a club locally
Leverage state and national professional associations to assist in forming networks of STEM clubs to share strategies and stories of successes/struggles. For example:
Understanding the context in which you are operating is an important factor in running a successful STEM club. It’s important that you understand the institutional context in which you are operating (ie your parent institution or organisation, if you have one), as well as the broader context beyond your institution.
Some contextual factors you might like to consider include:
We’ve developed a series of questions you can ask and answer to help you understand these important contextual factors.
Understanding context requires you to look beyond your STEM club, but it is just as important to understand what is right in front of you: your membership.
Understanding your members will allow you to provide a STEM club that meets the needs of members. It will also help you with fostering member interest, managing behaviour, and delivering sessions that are successful in the eyes of everyone involved.
Understanding your members means:
You can better understand your members by:
Looking for activities to run in your STEM club? Inspiring Australia Queensland provides a fantastic range of activity plans and resources in our activity resources database.
Messages are often delivered more strongly and learning more impactful when coming straight from the horse’s mouth â¦ in this case, people with STEM expertise, experience and knowledge. An important starting point is to seek out the experts in your own community and involve them in enriching the learning happening in your STEM club.
They could be:
Their contribution to your STEM club could be as a:
If finding someone within your local context is challenging and/or you are seeking particular expertise or skill set, you might look to initiatives like STEM Professionals in Schools as a source of input.
In 2018-19, The University of Southern Queensland used an evidence based process to develop a framework for evaluating STEM clubs. In fact, this toolkit has been designed around the structure of the evaluation framework, so you’ll see lots of alignment between the material you’re reading in this Toolkit and the Framework.
The Framework has two parts:
The Health Check is designed to be a prompt for reflective practice about the state of your STEM club. It asks you to self assess across a range of key areas identified through research as critical success factors for STEM clubs.
It is recommended that you complete the Health Check regularly. If you’re working in a school with a STEM club that runs all year round, you might like to complete it at the beginning, middle and end of each year. If you work in a library or other cultural institution and you operate clubs for fixed periods, with new participants each time, you might like to use it at the beginning and end of each intake.
You don’t have to share your completed Health Check with anyone, but participants in the pilot of the Evaluation Framework told us they found it to be a useful tool for communicating about their STEM club with their institution’s leadership team.
A common feature of most STEM clubs is that they are an informal space for club members to come together and learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Their design acts as a contrast to curriculum based teaching in traditional spaces (for example, classrooms and school laboratories). Understanding the motivation and engagement of members and their parents is one of many indicators of STEM club success.
STEM clubs are dynamic and changing. It is therefore important to evaluate the experience of members regularly, that is, as they attend club. As part of the STEM Club Evaluation Framework, there are a number of useful evaluation tools that you may way wish to consider using. These include surveys for members of different ages and also a parental survey.
To use these survey tools:
The data you collect using the Pulse Check survey tools in an invaluable input in the Health Check reflection process. Make sure you consider what your participants are telling you about your STEM club as you reflect on the success of your club.