Our deepest thoughts

Le dernier cri

Aug 8, 2016   written by John Lamerand

Some people see STEM as the latest fashion in teaching. They are right and they are wrong.

“The last cry” in teaching should be balance and by focusing narrowly on STEM we run the risk of providing an incomplete education. The same goes for the so-called “common core”. 

So what to do about the latest fashion in science and maths education?

We should encourage students to see the creative aspects in science and maths, and for that reason we favour the use of STEAM (with Arts) over STEM. What we are wary of, however, is that in rushing onto the bandwagon every teacher is trying to incorporate STEAM or STEM in some way. The result is often little more than a nod in the direction of this trend. 

A policy analyst in our government sees a laptop and a SPRK and says “That’s it, that is what we will do to satisfy schools’ cravings for something new”. Of course, we understand at the school level, that the last thing we want is yet another set of guidelines and subject names to come to grips with. The last thing we want is massive spending on tools that are next to useless without professional training.

Toys look good in photo opportunities and it is comforting for newspapers to report on what our state is doing (read spending) to bring education into the 21st Century.

What we need, more than anything else, is an understanding that the subjects that we grew up with still matter. History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Geology, Maths, English, LOTE, Fine Art, Drama – these subjects still matter no matter what we call them.

The danger is, if we treat STEAM as a fashion trend, that we will miss a great opportunity to teach and enthuse our students and we may continue to experience declining enrolment in science courses at a tertiary level. There has been a steady decline over the last twenty years in science participation. We need more than just a catchy name for what we will do to reverse this trend.

Finally, the potential for STEAM is somewhat like the potential within a friendship;  it’s not about what one discipline can do for another, it’s what the two disciplines become in each other’s presence. The promise of STEAM education is that subjects that were once treated in separate silos might be allowed to mingle.

Frustration with formatting

Aug 2, 2016   written by John Lamerand
I don’t know about you, my dear reader, but when a piece of software promises “what you see is what you get” then I am inclined to take them on their word. That is, until now. You see, I did not ask for the text in my blog to have a random text size. I specified the text size. Here is proof:

But instead of formatting the way I want I find this instead:

formatting-error And that is enough to bring a perfectionist to tears.

Move over Heston Marc Blumenthal!

Aug 2, 2016   written by John Lamerand


Years ago I bought a kitchen kit from a little company from Québec called Molécule-R. The kids loved it. They really, really loved it. This was before I’d had the idea to start steamkits so I bought it without thinking “great, a Christmas present that I can declare on my tax as a business sample.” Dear ATO, I am kidding, really, really, I am.

What got the kids so excited? As they put it they “did a Heston” and turned dinner on its head. The vinaigrette pearls, spinach gel “pasta” and mock raw egg dessert complete with liquid yolk in a gel sleeve was the talk of the neighbourhood, the playgroup, the classroom. It was a real buzz.

Well, since we first dipped our toes into molecular gastronomy we have seen the rise of Master Chef and sous vide cooking for the masses (thanks to the crowdfunded Nomiku circulator).

If you don’t know what I am talking about google Heston Blumenthal and you will quickly learn why your class will go absolutely wild for the Molécule-R kit.

Sadly there is a catch: you cannot buy the kits directly from Molécule-R any longer. Boo. 

The good news is that we are going to get some stock in so that you don’t have to resort to ebay. Of course, the added advantage of buying through steamkits is that we have identified where use of the  Molécule-R kit satisfies elements in the  Australian Curriculum – making lesson delivery that much easier.

So if you are looking for a chemistry or a food lesson that is safe and straightforward, think Molécule-R and Steamkits. Your students will love you.


This is what we found when we tried buying kits from the Molécule-R site today.

Site development

Jul 31, 2016   written by John Lamerand

It is half past one in the morning and I am tired. For a moment I reflect on how our mission is to prevent this from happening to teachers and I chuckle at the irony.

I will be back in front of this computer in seven hours to modify the design of the website. We have been using one platform to produce our wordpress theme and we are about to migrate to another platform. The site will start looking nicer this week. That is a promise.

The other thing that will change on this site is that there will be pricing for the items in the store, there will be a bank account linked to the shopping cart (so that you can buy things and we can send them to you) and there will be sample pdf content from the lessons that we are creating so you can get a sense of why our content works so well in classrooms.

I look forward to starting a conversation with site viewers, and for now the best email to contact me at is john@lamerand.com.au. Yes, it should be john@steamkits.com.au, but this is just one of the many wrinkles in the site administration that we are ironing out in this first week of August. Goodness, is it August already?