This article was originally published on About Catholic Schools on 25 March 2019.

Students from St Joseph the Worker Catholic Primary School Auburn South have been given the chance to experience high school-level coding, creative thinking and problem solving in partnership with Trinity Catholic College Auburn.

The college’s advanced STEM program invites gifted and enthusiastic stage 2 and 3 students from five Sydney Catholic schools to get to know staff and students at their future high school while developing both technical and soft skills.

Students work with Sphero robots over six weeks of Thursday afternoon sessions to learn the fundamentals of coding, and uncover how these interact with real-world concepts from maths and engineering.

Trinity Leader of Learning and Innovation Erin Healey said the program evolved as a way to build connections with the primary schools where students are given priority enrolment at Trinity.

“It got them thinking in a different way”

– Catherine McGinn

“Over the course of the program students learn to block code, with some students moving on to text coding,” Ms Healey said. “Completing this program sets them up in good stead for the year ahead, as one of their technology mandatory projects is based around coding.”

St Joseph the Worker Learning Support Officer Catherine McGinn attended the sessions with her daughter Siobhan last year, and said the course gave students access to resources usually out of reach for primary schoolers. These included the Sphero robots, which can be programmed using smart devices to move, light up and make sounds.

“On the final afternoon they had a floor mat with a roadway on it and the children had to program their Sphero to follow the road, so that involved teaching them how to program angles,” she said.

“It got them thinking in a different way – it’s so different to the book learning that happens for the most part in class.”

Six students from St Joseph have been part of the two cohorts who have completed the program, and more will participate when it begins again this year. Those chosen to attend from St Joseph all plan to move on to Trinity for high school, and some will be in the same class as part of the school’s Newman Selective Gifted Education program.

Year 6 students Paul Israel and Nicholas Abouchedid were part of the program’s first run, and said they’d both encourage friends to join if invited. Paul now plans to save his pocket money and buy his own Sphero to use at home.

“We got to see how big the actual school was – I’m happy I know the size of it because it’s very big compared to here,” Paul said.

“It was a bit of a challenge but after the six weeks we’d learned quite a lot. I like science and maths way more.”