Activity Introduction

Quick summary: The world is full of many STEM designs and innovations. In this lesson, the students explore examples of innovative STEM projects that solve real-world problems. The students are then challenged to take part in problem-solving via a STEM design challenge. Using a shared example, the students work on developing innovative solutions to the problem — or they can explore a local issue or problem that can be solved using STEM. The students then design and build a prototype of their solution.

Learning intentions:

  • Students identify solutions to real-world problems
  • Students understand problem-solving processes
  • Students will prototype design solutions.

21st century skills:

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Years 5 & 6 Design and Technologies:

  • Examine how people in design and technologies occupations address competing considerations, including sustainability in the design of products, services, and environments for current and future use (ACTDEK019)
  • Investigate the characteristics and properties of a range of materials, systems, components, tools and equipment, and evaluate the impact of their use (ACTDEK023)
  • Critique needs or opportunities for designing, and investigate materials, components, tools, equipment and processes to achieve intended designed solutions (ACTDEP024)
  • Generate, develop and communicate design ideas and processes for audiences using appropriate technical terms and graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP025)

Year 5 HASS:

  • Work in groups to generate responses to issues and challenges (ACHASSI102)
  • Reflect on learning to propose personal and/or collective action in response to an issue or challenge, and predict the probable effects (ACHASSI104)
  • The environmental and human influences on the location and characteristics of a place and the management of spaces within them (ACHASSK113)

Year 6 HASS:

  • Work in groups to generate responses to issues and challenges (ACHASSI130)
  • Reflect on learning to propose personal and/or collective action in response to an issue or challenge, and predict the probable effects (ACHASSI132)

Syllabus outcomes: ST3-14BE, ST3-15I, ST3-16P, ST3-13MW, ST3-5WT, GE3-2, GE3-4

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Relevant parts of Year 5 and 6 achievement standards: 

Students describe competing considerations in the design of products, services and environments, especially taking sustainability into account. They describe how design and technologies contribute to meeting present and future needs. 

Students create design solutions for each of the prescribed technologies contexts suitable for identified needs or opportunities. They combine design ideas and communicate these to audiences using graphical representation techniques and technical terms. They select and use appropriate technologies and techniques correctly and safely to produce design solutions.

Topic: STEM/STEAM, Creative Thinking, Sustainability, Waste

Unit of work: STEM Challenges — Primary

Time required: 130 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium. Teachers will be required to lead discussions at the start of the session. As the session progresses the students take the lead and the teaching role extends to a facilitator to give limited guidance to the students in the STEM prototype planning and building.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student
  • Device capable of presenting online videos to the class
  • Materials for prototype building – cardboard, tape, glue and various recycled items.

Related Professional Development: Practical Steps for STEM Inquiry

Keywords: STEM, STEAM, waste, community, real-world, design, problem-finding, problem-solving, solutions.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • … identify solutions to real-world problems
  • … understand problem-solving processes
  • … prototype design solutions.

Learning objectives: Students can...

  • … engage in real-world problems
  • … maintain a solutions focus
  • ... work collaboratively
  • ... make adjustments and develop flexibility
  • … reflect on their learning over time.

Teacher content information: STEM is an integrated approach used to solve real-world problems. There are many examples of STEM problem-solving in action around the world. In this lesson, students use problem-based creative design to develop their critical thinking skills as well as to solve real-world problems or issues. This lesson provides a shared example of STEM in action; however, the lesson can be altered to address a local problem or issue instead.

Teacher preparation: Familiarise yourself with the following resources prior to conducting the lesson.

This first clip shows a vari

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: How are STEM inventions solving problems in the real world?

STEM Inventions

STEM innovation is everywhere. Some STEM inventions are providing valuable tools and resources for people who need them most, or to help the environment.

Watch this clip and write down some of the inventions you see in the table below:


22 Inventions That Are Saving The Earth - Tech Insider (

Rate your chosen inventions out of 5 on the innovation scale:

  • 1 - not very innovative or interesting
  • 2 - not a bad idea
  • 3 - pretty good idea
  • 4 - innovative and interesting idea
  • 5 - incredible idea


(name or description)

Innovation Rating out of 5



Share your answers to the following questions with a partner:

  • Which inventions did you like the best?
  • Which were most useful for people?
  • Which were good for the environment?

Case Study - Seabin

Watch this clip a

- or - to view worksheets

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