The federal government is trialling a STEM program for preschoolers in a bid to encourage interest in the sector from a young age.
The $6 million early learning STEM Australia (ELSA) program, developed by the University of Canberra, will be rolled out to 4000 preschoolers in 100 early childcare centres across the country as a part of a pilot this term.
The money was allocated in the government's $1.1 billion 2015 national innovation and science agenda.
The government plans to leverage the success of its early language learning program (ELLA), which has been rolled out to nearly 2500 preschools over three years, for ELSA.
ELSA is a play-based digital learning program that aims to instil a curiosity in science and technology to “develop the skills needed to navigate our rapidly-changing world and the jobs of the future", according to education minister Simon Birmingham.
The pilot will give children the opportunity to learn STEM through a suite of interactive apps on tablets as well as physical workshops and activities.
The first ELSA app in the suite will introduce preschoolers to the foundational STEM concepts of sorting, ordering, patterning and representations.
One hundred preschools from across Australia are taking part in the 2018 ELSA pilot, which also offers free workshops and resources for teachers.
The University of Canberra is additionally running 18 'user experience evaluation centres' across NSW, the ACT, and Queensland, where it will test ELSA apps with users.